Horses have ‘hypsodont’ teeth which means they grow constantly throughout their life and in a normal horse are worn down at an equal rate to this growth by chewing. The upper cheek teeth sit a little further apart than the lower rows so the grinding surface of the tooth does not wear evenly. This causes sharp enamel points to develop on the outer edge of the upper teeth and on the inside edge of the lower teeth. These sharp edges can cause ulceration of the soft tissues of the mouth inside the cheeks and along the edges of the tongue which can be very painful. Hooks also commonly develop on the front of the first upper cheek teeth and the back of the last lower cheek teeth. If large enough, these overgrowths can interfere with the normal chewing pattern and can cause discomfort when ridden. This process can be exacerbated by the modern diets we feed horses as the grinding pattern differs between horses chewing roughage and hard feed or grain.
Routine dental care should consist of:
- A thorough oral and dental exam to assess the soft tissues and teeth. Sedation, a bright light source and dental mirrors are all required to fully evaluate the teeth and soft tissues of the mouth.
- Identification of abnormalities such as periodontal disease, cavities in teeth, gaps between teeth, poorly aligned, missing or fractured teeth.
- Careful reduction of any sharp points, overgrown teeth or excessive ridges on the surface of the tooth. Our specially designed powerfloat is quiet, safe and well tolerated by the vast majority of horses. We also have a selection of hand rasps including slimline floats for smaller mouths. Direct visualisation of the teeth with a light source throughout the process allows floating to be performed accurately and safely.
- Further investigation of any abnormalities detected by the clinical assessment. This may include x-rays, upper airway endoscopy and in the occasional case, scintigraphy.
- Treatment of any abnormalities and advice about ongoing management of any problems detected.