Classic Equine Connection

Learning about your horse's mouth

Posted by Classic Equine Equipment Blog on Sep 8, 2021 3:36:17 PM

Equine teeth are designed to wear against the tooth above or below as the horse chews, thus preventing excess growth. The upper jaw is wider than the lower jaw. In some cases, sharp edges can occur on the outside of the upper molars and the inside of the lower molars, as they are unopposed by an opposite grinding surface. These sharp edges can reduce the chewing efficiency of the teeth, interfere with jaw motion, and in extreme cases cut the tongue or cheek, making eating and riding painful.

Horse Mouth - Classic Equine Equipment BlogIn the wild, a horse’s food supply allows their teeth to wear evenly. But with domesticated horses grazing on lush, soft forage and a large number being fed grain or other concentrated feed, natural wear may be reduced. If needed, equine dentistry can be undertaken by a vet or by a trained specialist such as an equine dental technician. Regular checkups by a professional are typically recommended every six months or at least annually.

Many horses require floating (or rasping) of teeth once every 12 months, although, this is 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 frequent checkups may be needed to prevent problems from developing. As a horse ages, particularly from the late teens on, additional changes in incisor angle and other molar growth patterns often necessitate frequent care and once a horse is in its late 20s or early 30s, molar loss becomes a concern. Floating involves a veterinarian wearing down the surface of the teeth, usually to remove sharp points or to balance out the mouth.

Other specific conditions relating to wearClassic Equine Equipment Blog include a “step mouth”, where one molar or premolar grows longer than the others, normally because the corresponding tooth in the opposite jaw is missing or broken, and therefore could not wear down the same. A “wave mouth” is when at least two molars or premolars are higher than the others. When viewed from the side, the grinding produces a wave-like pattern rather than a straight line. This can lead to periodontal diseases and excessive wear of the teeth. A “shear mouth” is when the grinding surfaces of the molars or premolars are severely sloped on each individual tooth (the inner side of the teeth are much higher or lower than the outer side of the teeth), severely affecting chewing.

Horses may also experience an overbite/brachygnathism (parrot mouth), or an underbite/prognathism (sow mouth, monkey mouth). These may affect how the incisors wear. In severe cases, the horse’s ability to graze may be affected. Horses also sometimes suffer from equine malocclusion where there is a misalignment between their upper and lower jaws.

Other common problems include curvature of the incisors, abscessed, loose, infected, or cracked teeth, retained deciduous teeth, and plaque build-up. Wolf teeth may also cause problems, and are many times removed, as are retained caps.

Good dental care can not only eliminate these problems, but can help your horse lead a longer, healthier life.

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