Horses benefit from routine dental examinations and floating. Proper dental maintenance is essential to allow peak performance of your horse and harmony between the horse and rider. Thorough dental care can:
- prevent premature tooth loss and promote more complete utilization of feed
- reduce the incidence of impaction and gas colic
- alleviate temporomandibular joint pain
- allow timely removal of any shedding deciduous teeth/baby teeth (also known as “caps”) to decrease pain of eruptions
- prevent pain due to the use of a bit, making it easier for the horse to be trained
- to provide other benefit as well
In essence, since horses’ teeth grow constantly to accommodate the constant “grinding” that occurs as they chew, not all teeth come in and “wear” evenly. This means that sharp points can and WILL form on the outsides of the upper teeth and the insides of the lower teeth (most commonly). When those points form, they make wearing a bit or hackamore uncomfortable. Eating itself can also be painful. The lower teeth will cut into the tongue and the upper teeth can cut into the cheeks. Floating helps to eliminate sharp points in the horse’s mouth that can lead to ulcerations and decreased appetite.
To help prevent dental problems, it is recommended to get your horse’s teeth checked by your veterinarian every 6 months. However, regular checks may be needed more often for certain individuals. Very young horses may need to be seen more frequently as their teeth grow more rapidly and they are shedding “caps”. Older horses also need to be evaluated more often as well. Additionally, the horse’s teeth should be checked if it is having major performance problems, dropping feed, or showing any other signs of a dental problem.
Often horses require floating (or rasping) of teeth once every 12 months, although this, too, is variable and dependent on the individual horse. The first four or five years of a horse’s life are when the most growth-related changes occur and hence frequent checkups may prevent problems from developing. Equine teeth get harder as the horse gets older and may not have rapid changes during the prime adult years of life, but as horses become aged, particularly from the late teens on, additional changes in incisor angle and other molar growth patterns often necessitate frequent care. Once a horse is in its late 20s or early 30s, molar loss becomes a concern.
Floating involves filing down the surface of the teeth, usually to remove sharp points or to balance out the mouth. However, we must be careful not to take off too much of the surface, or there will not be enough roughened area on the tooth to allow it to properly tear apart food. Additionally, too much work on a tooth can cause thermal damage (which could lead to having to extract the tooth), or expose the sensitive interior of the tooth (pulp).
Many of our clients ask whether we have power floats or hand floats. In fact, we have both. Depending on the individual horse we often times will use both in the course of a float. Young horses have softer teeth and sharper points so often times with them we find that hand floats work better as they will not heat up as much and won’t take as much tooth off in a single pass. Older horses that have not been floated regularly may need to have a “wave” mouth smoothed, hooks filed, steps repaired, etc. Many of these abnormalities need a slightly more aggressive float. As I have previously noted, older horses have harder teeth and will often benefit more from a power floater. Some “low tolerance/low patience” horses can benefit from the power floating as well because it is faster than hand floating.
- Better for Young horses with soft teeth as it will take less off in a single pass
- Decrease risk of changing angles
- Decrease risk of heating tooth and causing “smooth tooth”
- Decrease risk of microfractures
- Better in horses with hard teeth to grind/float
- Better pin-point precision
- Can get to points in the back of the mouth that are too close to hand float
- Less damage to brittle older teeth than hand floating
- Less taxing on the horse and practitioner and can allow for better repair of severe dental defects/abnormalities
Please don’t hesitate to call us to discuss your equine dental concerns.
We also offer dentistry for your small furry friends as well – call us today to schedule all of your dentistry needs.