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Equine Dentistry Overview

Horses’ teeth are renowned for being hard-wearing but certain factors can cause them to be exposed to conditions that can impact their health and growth.

Potential risks to horses’ teeth

A horse’s teeth are hard-wearing but chewing rough fibre for over 18 hours a day can wear them down at a rate of approximately 2-3 mm per year.

To compensate for this wear a horse’s teeth continue to erupt through the gums into the mouth over time until they reach an age when there is simply nothing left to erupt. When this occurs a horse loses its teeth.

In the wild horses spend a large proportion of their time eating and this constant chewing action generally wears their teeth evenly to prevent sharp edges and spikes from forming over time. However, as it is now more normal for us to stable our horses and feed them concentrates, their normal chewing activity is reduced. This can result in sharp edges forming, causing discomfort and eating problems.

Equally, expecting our horses to work in bridles creates additional pressures within the mouth, which wouldn’t normally happen in the wild. Good dental care is therefore essential to our horses’ health and well-being to ensure they are comfortable when ridden.

Regular dental care is an essential part of horse management
Regular dental care is an essential part of horse management

Anatomy of a horse’s mouth

The horse has a total of 36 teeth with males having additional canine teeth, which are not normally present in mares or fillies. Additionally, some horses develop ‘wolf teeth’, which are small functionless teeth that can erupt just in front of the first cheek tooth.

The incisors or front teeth are designed for grazing and biting at grass, whilst the cheek teeth or molars, which extend to the level of the eye, are responsible for grinding feed.