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Equine - Dentistry/Dental - Dental Care and Dental Disease in Horses

How can I care for my horse's teeth at home?

There's not a lot you can do for your horse's teeth at home. It's not like canines and felines where you can brush their teeth, give them dental bones and treats to clean. A lot of what you're going to see when you look in a horse’s mouth is their incisors. And a lot is going on back further by the cheeks that you won't be able to see without your veterinarian coming out sedating the horse, putting a speculum in to open their mouth to get a good visual of what's going on back there.

Dr. Rena Chang
Tennessee Equine Hospital

What is professional dental floating like for a horse? And does a vet have to perform it?

It's preferred that a vet performs it. That way, we can give them a good dose of sedation, listen to their heart beforehand, make sure they don't have any problems with their heart, which may set up a problem when we give them the sedation. We use a power tool, which is basically like a disc on the end of a drill, and it's pretty noisy. It's not traumatic for the horse, but the noise and the vibrations can spook them. Because of this noise, we give them a good plane of sedation so that we can open their mouth with the speculum and get back in there with the dental tool without traumatizing your horse physically or mentally. I recommend that a professional veterinarian do that for you.

What are wolf teeth in horses? And should they be removed?

So wolf teeth are tiny teeth right in front of your horse's pre-molars, so they're back behind the commissure of the mouth. Most of the time, they don't cause problems because they're set far enough back that the bit isn't interfering. A lot of times, people get the wolf teeth and canines confused. Some horses, particularly geldings and stallions, have canines that are a little bit further forward, closer to the incisors. They don't typically cause a problem. You don't want to remove those. The wolf teeth are further back, and you have to get your finger back there. Again, you probably want to use a speculum, so you don't get bitten. Most of the time, I tell people if they're not causing a problem, just forget about them. In horses with wolf teeth that are funny with the bit, we will go ahead and pull those teeth to make sure that the horse is as comfortable as possible with a bridle on.

Can my horse develop dental diseases? And if so, what are some signs and symptoms?

Horses can develop some dental diseases. Probably the most common things we see are fractured teeth due to bad teeth over time. Aged horses wear their teeth more. And if they chew on a rock or something, they can fracture it. Older horses also start losing their teeth. Around five years of old of age, they have as many teeth as they're going to have in their mouth. And that tooth slowly erupts over time. So by the time your horse is about 20, 25 years old, we’re starting to get to the end of that tooth's life. And if those teeth fall out or begin to get loose, they can pack some feed in there and get some gingivitis.

They can also get a little bit of a sinus infection if it goes up into their sinuses. The other thing that older horses can get is EOTRH, a disease of the incisors that causes them to loosen. And that can be pretty painful for the horse. Sometimes you can treat that with anti-inflammatories like Equioxx. And sometimes they have to go ahead and pull those teeth.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (615) 591-1232, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.

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