A short overview as to the necessity of horse dentistry.
A good equine dentist should always aim to provide ethical
treatments that work towards improving the health, welfare,
future comfort and performance of the horse.
The anatomy of the horses head has evolved for the primary
purpose of eating. The gradual elongation of the head during
evolution allowed individual teeth to become larger and stronger.
The horse's lower jaw is narrower than the upper jaw and allows
for the circular movement involved in the chewing process
(mastication), where the top and bottom teeth are ground against
each other to grind the food.
The Temporomandibular joint is the most frequently used
joint in the horse's body. This joint is made up of the condyle
processes of the mandibles and the temporal bones.
This joint can easily become painful if there is uneven
balance within the mouth.
There are many reasons why horses may need the help of a
dentist, many of which can be resolved with investigation
and treatment. It is always better to prevent an uncomfortable
situation for the horse from becoming a more serious problem.
There are signs that the horse will portray that a conscientious
owner can recognise.
-Changes in their eating habits -Dropping their feed as
they eat -Washing their feed in their water before eating
-Holding their head to the side -Unpleasant breath -A swollen
face -Rolling their feed into a ball then dropping it -Weight
loss -Unable to keep weight on
Equine dentists that treat your horse should: -Establish
a treatment plan for your horse -Remove the build up of sharp
enamel points on cheek teeth -Remove hooks and ramps -Correct
minor waves and overgrowths -Re-establish correct cheek tooth
table angles -Re-establishment of proper molar occlusion -Re-establishment
of proper lateral excursion -Re-establishment of proper anterior/posterior
function -Re-establishment of proper incisor tooth angles
After completion of treatment there should be no evidence
of trauma due to it and the owner should be informed of the
recommended schedule of routine maintenance. Every effort
should be made to avoid injury to the horse during procedures
If the dentist is unable to complete their treatment or
the need for future treatment is required, the owner should
Why do horses teeth get sharp? Horses and other equids have
hypsodont teeth. These are teeth with a limited growth period
but constant eruption throughout the animal's life. This means
that it is the grinding together of cheek teeth during mastication
that keeps teeth worn to the optimum level. The anatomy of
the upper and lower jaw contributes to cheek teeth forming
If teeth are even slightly unevenly worn, the problem gradually
becomes more serious and will not correct itself.
Performance Does your horse ever; -Get head shy? -Head toss?
-Rear? -Become unsettled when ridden? -Not perform to their
All these symptoms are typical in the horse with dental
problems. Uneven tooth wear can cause pain and a cause the
horses head to 'lock up' and stop the natural, very important
Anterior / Posterior movement within the head. As the horses
head lifts up his lower law pulls back, as it is lowered,
it moves forward. Locking up occurs due to one tooth erupting
more than the others in the arcade, causing the occluding
tooth to erupt less. This prevents the natural movement of
the head and prevents natural free flowing movement throughout
the horse, reducing the horse's ability to perform!!
Pain Skilled placement of instruments will ensure a pain
free treatment. Horse's teeth do not have the same enervation
as human, crowned teeth.
How often should teeth be checked? Horses should be checked
as foals, to ensure the correct tooth development and formation
within the mouth. Periodically after this, twice annually
as a guide, but dependant on the dentist's advice can be left
longer or seen to more frequently. A problem is better caught
early and prevented from getting worse, rather than allowed
to escalate into something potentially more painful and costly
It is a good idea if the owner can perform basic checks
to monitor the horses teeth, in order to spot any problems
early, the dentist should show owners how to do this.
Veterinarians v's Dentists A recent survey of Veterinary
colleges showed over 80% of Vet schools have less than 3 hours
of training in equine dentistry, incorporating very little
clinical practice. * Everyone has an opinion; it may just
be that the vet's opinion may be invalid due to their lack
of experience. It is important to note that there are Vets's
that seek out extra training in Horse Dentistry and are very
competent in their work.
There are dentists that also treat horses, who have had
very little or no training. It is in the owners and horses
best interest to check the knowledge of anyone treating your
horse, and ensure you are completely happy before commencing
(*Refer to World Wide Association of Equine Dentistry)
About the Author
Tammy is a passionate equine rider who wishes to advertise the
correct ways to be looking after horses. Tammy works part time
for Anything Equine
online who specialise in Stable Rugs as well as Equitech
equestrian clothing and equipment in the UK.