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Common Dental Problems in Horses

Your horse can't tell you when they are experiencing dental pain, so it's important to have their teeth checked regularly. Your veterinarian can spot the signs of dental problems in the earliest stages so that treatment can begin before symptoms become severe. 

How Your Horse Chews

Rather than up and down, a horse chews by grinding food in a chewing motion that moves from the outside to inside. This movement mashes their food into a cigar-shaped mass which is swallowed chunk by chunk. Although a horse can chew on either side of their mouth, they can only chew on one side at a time.

In wild horses that are left to forage, this sideways motion is large, involving the entire surface of the teeth including the edges. In our pampered, domesticated, equine friends the sideways chewing motion is reduced. This means that the centers of the teeth often get worn down more quickly than the outer edges, causing the teeth to become long and sharp.

The Importance of Floating

Regular floating (having your equine vet remove the sharp points from your horse's teeth) can help your horse maintain good oral health and continue to eat comfortably. But sharp edges aren't the only dental concern when it comes to our equine friends. Below we look at a few of the most common dental problems in horses and symptoms to watch for.

Tooth Misalignment

Misalignment (or malocclusion) refers to poor positioning of the teeth such as overbites and underbites. Malocclusion can lead to uneven wear on the surface of the teeth causing discomfort and making it difficult to chew properly.

Wolf Teeth

It is estimated that about 70% of horses develop wolf teeth. These small, often pointy, teeth can appear in front of the premolars. In some cases, these teeth cause little or no discomfort but many times they interfere with the bit and lead to damage of the surrounding soft tissues. It is common for veterinarians to recommend the removal of wolf teeth to help ensure the horse's comfort and good oral health.

Dental Abscesses

Abscesses are caused when bacteria enter a horse's tooth and cause an infection. Abscesses are often associated with sharp points on the teeth as well as cracked or fractured teeth. Signs of a dental abscess can include difficulties eating, bad breath and facial swelling.

Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease (gum disease) is an uncomfortable inflammation of the gums. Typically caused by food debris impacted between the cheek teeth, periodontal disease can lead to discomfort, loose teeth and even tooth loss if left untreated.

Equine Odontoclastic Tooth Resorption & Hypercementosis (EOTRH)

EOTRH is a painful, progressive dental condition that typically affects the incisors of older horses. This condition is characterized by the loss (resorption) of the bone and tissue surrounding the roots of the horse’s incisors and/or canine teeth. Affected teeth often become brittle and prone to breakage. The condition is also characterized by a bulbous enlargement of the affected tooth roots. 

Preventing Dental Health Problems in Horses

Maintaining good oral health is a vital component of caring for your equine friend's overall health. Regular dental appointments, proper nutrition and prompt veterinary attention to signs of discomfort can help to ensure that your horse enjoys a healthy and happy life.


Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is it time to have your horse's teeth checked? Contact our Gillette equine vets today, to book an appointment for your horse.

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Red Hills Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Gillette companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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