Read more on the importance of oral exams and dentistry: Maintaining Your Horse’s Well-Being with a Healthy Mouth
The veterinarians at ECO believe that routine dental care for your horse is a vital component to his or her overall health. At least once a year, your horse should have an oral examination done, primarily to examine your horse’s dentition. As part of the exam, we check for points (sharp edges) along the chewing surfaces of the premolars and molars. We will also examine his/her incisors, canines, and wolf teeth. Additionally an oral exam allows assessment of their soft and hard palates, tongue, and mucus membranes. Each exam will lead to a decision to have your horse sedated (mild, standing sedation) and have his/her teeth floated or plan to be rechecked in a specific period of time.
The horse is unique in that their teeth are designed to have a consistent chewing surface throughout most of the lifetime. There are two reasons that a horse needs regular dental care. First, horse teeth continuously erupt, which means reserve tooth root that is hidden from sight in their sinus cavities gradually emerges/descends into the mouth. This gradual eruption allows for a constant chewing surface as long as there is root available. Second, the upper jaw of a horse is wider than the lower jaw. This means that the chewing teeth (premolars and molars) do not sit directly on top of each other. The outside edges of the upper teeth and the inside edges lower teeth do not get worn down, hence the points (sharp edges) form. When the points get too sharp, they create erosions and sores (ulcerations) on the inside of the cheeks or along the tongue. These points will also lead to bitting and riding/head carriage problems.
In addition to points that form in all horse’s mouths, other issues can develop. An overbite or underbite will develop into a hook in the front of their mouth, in the back of the mouth or both. Should these hooks get too large, they can interfere with chewing and with the bit. You may not even be able to get your horse to collect his head properly if he has hooks. Young horses will frequently have wolf teeth (the first premolar) that may interfere with the bit and training; this is why they are removed prior to being broken to ride. Some horses will develop wave mouths: molars and premolars being at different height levels leading to difficulty chewing. Older horses will also eventually lose their teeth; they need frequent examinations and care to keep them chewing as best as possible. These are just a few conditions we will look for in your horse.
Floating is the process by which we file down and remove the hooks and points. We will also correct other abnormalities to the best of our capabilities. ECO utilizes both hand and power tools to perform dental care. Macpherson full mouth speculums are used in every dental procedure to allow us to fully examine and treat your horse’s mouth. Should your older horse have a loose tooth, we can schedule an appointment to remove it with specialized tools. For our clients with miniature horses and donkeys, rest assured that we have specialized equipment for your “small” animals, just let us know that you have a mini when scheduling your appointment.
Please call us to schedule an appointment for your horse’s dental exam.