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Equine Dental Health

Before a discussion on dental health can commence, it is important to understand the anatomy of the horses head.  Pictured below is a typical equine skull.  One can easily visualize the incisor teeth in the front.  These are used to pick grass.  To the rear of the space where the bit usually lies are the molars.  The horse has 4 premolar teeth and 3 molars.  (The first premolar teeth are called "Wolf Teeth".  These are usually small and seen on the upper arcade only.  They are not present in this photograph.)

Skull.jpg (66263 bytes)

The open jaw below demonstrates the molars much better.

Open Side.jpg (78188 bytes)

The set of rounded teeth just behind the incisors are the canine teeth.  Canine teeth are usually present in male horses only, but they can be found occasionally in mares.

The front view below illustrates that as horses grind their feed, because the upper teeth are spaced wider than the lower teeth, the molars develop a slant.  When this happens, and due to the fact that the horse's molars have ridges on the sides of their teeth, sharp points develop on the inside of the lower teeth and the outside of their upper teeth.  It is these points that can cause a horse discomfort when eating or when he is being ridden with a bit in his mouth.  The smoothing of these points is a process call "Floating".  Horses should have their teeth floated at least once a year to prevent the points from getting too sharp and interfering with eating and riding.

Open Front.jpg (77160 bytes)

Below is a view of the lower dental arcade being floated.

Lower Arcade.jpg (83546 bytes)

Then the upper molar arcade is done in a similar fashion.

Upper Arcade.jpg (99392 bytes)

Properly done, all of the sharp edges will be smoothed for his comfort.  Dental care should commence when the horse is young, and at least yearly thereafter.  It is best to have the teeth examined, floated, and wolf teeth removed prior to any training.   This will help keep the horse on the training schedule with a maximum of compliance with the bit.

Below, a different model demonstrates the finished floating procedure on a lower jaw.   Note the smoothed edges.

Finished.jpg (78702 bytes)

Just as in humans, regular checkups will help prevent many problems from developing!

For more details on dental care and abnormalities, click on the link below.
Australian Equine Dental Practice


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Last updated on: 24 June 2011 at 1218R hours