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How To Keep Your Horse's Teeth Healthy

Your horse’s teeth are always hard at work, chopping and grinding forage as they graze the day away. When your horse has a dental issue, they may not get adequate nutrition or they may not be able to eat at all. Improper chewing can also lead to poor digestion and colic. Keep up with your horse’s dental health to protect their overall wellness and longevity.

Why Do Horses Need Their Teeth Floated?
Your horse’s teeth are continuously growing. Also, every horse’s upper jaw is slightly wider than the lower jaw, causing the teeth to grind against one another as they chew. This action creates sharp edges that can interfere with your horse’s ability to chew efficiently, and can also create sores in the soft tissues in your horse’s mouth.

Floating, or filing down sharp edges, keeps the chewing surfaces of your horse’s teeth even as they grow and wear down with daily use. Most horses need to have their teeth floated and examined by their veterinarian once a year. Your veterinarian may need to sedate your horse to conduct a thorough examination.

Do I Need To Clean My Horse’s Teeth?
Do your horse’s yellow-brown teeth have you wondering if it’s time to start brushing? As it turns out, horses are not meant to have a sparkling white smile.

Your horse’s teeth have a porous outer layer called cementum that helps keep the tooth connected to the socket. The cementum stains easily as your horse eats. No brushing needed to maintain your horse’s natural, healthy smile.

A typical horse’s diet, made up mainly of forage, keeps their teeth clean through a constant chewing action. Their diet also keeps their saliva alkaline, creating a less-than-ideal environment for bacteria that causes tooth decay.

Some horses do get some tartar buildup around the gumline. This tartar can be removed at your horse’s regular dental appointment.

What Are Signs Of Dental Issues In Horses?
If you keep up with yearly dental exams, your horse is unlikely to have dental issues. Even so, some horses are more prone to tartar buildup than others, sometimes due to genetics or malformations.

Horses under 5 years old will lose a set of baby teeth, just like humans. Your veterinarian may recommend more frequent dental exams while your horse is young to ensure their adult teeth are developing properly and that all of their baby teeth have fallen out. Retained baby teeth may need to be surgically removed.

Canine teeth are usually only present in male horses. They usually erupt when the horse is 4-6 years or older. Canines are more prone to developing sharp edges and accumulating tartar buildup. It’s also common for canine teeth to fracture.

In older horses, the teeth eventually stop growing. If your horse lives long enough, their teeth will eventually wear down completely. Horses with missing teeth can still eat, though their feed may need to be soaked to ensure proper digestion.

Call your equine veterinarian if you notice any of these symptoms of a dental issue:
  • Drooling Quidding, or spitting out partially chewed balls of food
  • Odor Undigested forage in stool
  • Tilting head while chewing
  • Facial swelling Discharge, pus, or blood from mouth
  • Unexplained weight loss