Dental Care for Horses
Our equine friends can suffer from many dental disorders which can affect their ability to eat and perform.
Our vets in Sturgis take equine dentistry seriously. Dental exams for horses include a thorough oral health examination and tooth floating (if necessary). This helps to ensure optimal dental health for your horse.
The use of sedation and full-mouth speculums to perform oral exams allows our veterinarians to assess and treat the dental needs of your horse with comfort and safety in mind.
Equine Dental Exams & Treatment
Adult horses should be seen by their veterinary dentist at least once a year. Horses over 20 years old or with existing dental issues may require more frequent visits.
If you notice any of the following symptoms in your horse, it's time for a dental appointment.
- Dropping feed from the mouth while chewing
- Awkward chewing motions while eating
- Trouble placing a bit in the horses’ mouth
- Difficulty riding when the horse has a bit in
- Weight loss
- Nasal discharge
- Poorly digested food in manure
- Food packing within cheeks
Typically, an equine dental appointment will start with the veterinarian gathering a history of your horse. They will ask the owner or stable manager questions to gauge what they may expect to find in a horses’ mouth.
Your horse will be sedated because it allows for a more thorough examination of the mouth.
The first thing that the veterinarian does is perform a comprehensive exam of the mouth, including the gums, mucosa, teeth, and tongue.
Once your vet has had a chance to examine your horse's mouth, they will discuss treatment options for any extensive issues.
In most cases, a horse's teeth can become worn in a way that leads to sharp edges, so their dentist will file them down with a procedure called 'floating'. This uses power or hand tools to grind the teeth in certain spots to either adjust the alignment of the mouth or to smooth out sharp or protruding points in the teeth.
You can help your horse by providing at least half of their diet as good quality long fiber. If you have an older horse, they may require special attention with their diet, especially if they are missing teeth and struggle to chew long fiber. Fiber replacements offer a good solution in such cases but speak to your vet about any concerns you may have.
FAQs About Equine Dental Services
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions from our clients about horse dental care.
- Why do horses need yearly dental exams?
Making horse dental care a priority can save not only your horse's life, but can save time and money and give you and your horse the quality of life and companionship you both deserve. Dental care is extremely vital to preparing a young horse to begin its training.
Throughout the horse's life, teeth will naturally wear down both normally and abnormally. The result can be either pain or the premature wear of the teeth. The discomfort that can result from even regular wear patterns makes annual dental exams important for the horse.
In addition, the development of wolf teeth and other dental anomalies can cause a young horse great discomfort resulting in fighting the bit and making training more difficult. Any pressure on the horse's cheeks is capable of rubbing on these teeth which tend to be pointed.
- How can I tell if my horse has oral health issues?
Behavior can be a huge indication of oral health problems. If your horse is experiencing dental problems they can have bad breath, drop food, or have less of an appetite. They can also pack food in their cheeks, start to lose weight, or fight the bit during training.
Read more about symptoms to the left under Equine Dental Care & Exams.
- What long-term problems can poor oral health potentially cause in my pet?
Serious dental conditions can develop, such as infections of the teeth and gums, extremely long hooks or overgrowths on the cheek teeth, and lost or fractured teeth. These conditions may require advanced dental care and/or extraction by a qualified veterinarian.
Your equine veterinarian can recommend the best treatment or refer your horse to a dental specialist if needed.
- How can I keep an eye on my horse's dental health?
Regularly, handle your horse's head and mouth to make sure they are comfortable having their mouth examined. If you own a foal, exam the foal's teeth as soon as possible, checking for baby teeth called caps that are pushed out by the growing permanent teeth by the time the horse is about two years old.
If caps are creating pain and soreness, you may have your veterinarian remove the caps. The same goes for wolf teeth, which are extra teeth that may grow crooked or in the wrong spot.
With an adult horse, open the mouth and check for uneven wear on teeth resulting in points or sharp edges that will keep the horse from properly chewing feed.
Also, note any teeth that are beginning to protrude excessively or cause misalignments or malocclusion. Note any changes in eating habits, loss of weight, bad breath, dropping half-eaten food, holding the head at a strange angle, bolting, or head tossing.
- What are some common dental health problems in horses?
Some commonly seen dental issues for horses include:
- Abnormal wear with sharp enamel edges on both the lower and upper check teeth. If pronounced this can cause painful ulcers and erosion of the soft tissues of the cheek or tongue
- Overgrowth is either secondary to a misaligned jaw (parrot mouth) or as a result of a missing tooth
- Fractured, displaced, loose, or missing cheek teeth
- Diastema (gaps between the teeth where food collects) that causes gum disease
- Caries: tooth decay
- Tooth root abscess
- Retained deciduous (baby) teeth
- Blind (unerupted) or abnormally large or displaced wolf teeth
- Abnormalities of the incisors