Equine dentistry and looking after your horse’s teeth
Poor dental care in horses can have sour consequences, just like it does with humans and other animals.
Just like we check our own teeth regularly and take measures to keep them clean, it’s important to do the same for horses (which can mean seeking professional assistance).
Let’s take a closer look at equine dentistry, the common dental problems that occur in horses and how to reduce your horse’s risk.
Common dental problems in horses include:
- Continual eruption of the teeth, combined with lack of wear, can lead to the development of sharp enamel points, which can wear against the inside of the cheek, often leading to painful ulcers
- A misaligned jaw can lead to overbite or ‘parrot mouth’
- The teeth may become fractured or even fall out, often as a result of caries, periodontal disease or old age. When this does happen, trapped food might gather between the gaps, causing gum disease and decay of the remaining teeth
- Other abnormalities of the teeth
As an owner, it’s important to keep an eye on your horse’s teeth and to have them checked regularly by an equine vet.
If something is wrong with your horse’s teeth, symptoms may include:
- Bad breath
- Dropping food from their mouth while chewing or eating (this is known as ‘quidding’)
- Food packed within their cheeks (struggling to chew)
- Change in ridden behaviour
- Reluctance to accept their bit
- Weight loss – in extreme cases
If you spot any of these, contact your vet before the suspected condition has time to get worse.
Just like with human dental care, prevention is preferable to cure. The best thing you can do to keep your horse free of dental problems is to keep their teeth in good condition.
Checking your horse’s teeth regularly is a good habit to get into. You might not be able to see the molars yourself but checking the front teeth will make sure you don’t miss any obvious problems – never check your horse’s teeth without the help of a dental speculum. If you’re unsure, seek the help of a vet.
You might be able to tell if something’s wrong just from the smell of your horse’s breath!
Keeping sugary treats to a minimum can also help. Feed them fruit sparingly and use carrots as a reward instead.
Take care around their teeth
When checking your horse’s teeth or when applying the headgear before taking them out for a ride, be careful not to knock anything against their teeth.
Keep an eye out for symptoms
Bear in mind that dental problems can be more subtle than you might think. Err on the side of prevention, have your horse’s teeth checked regularly by a professional. If symptoms do show, have them checked as soon as possible.
If you suspect your horse may be suffering from a dental or teeth-related condition, contact your vet as soon as you can. They’ll be able to conduct further tests and take the appropriate action.
To find your nearest recommended vet or pet clinic, use our Find a Vet page.