The only time many owners look in their horse’s mouth is to check age or to give a dewormer, but it is important to pay as much attention to our horse’s dental health as we do to other areas of equine care.
Tooth problems in horses are common because their teeth never erupt slowly.
A vet or qualified equine dentist should be called in regularly to thoroughly examine and carry out any necessary work on your horse’s teeth. Horses aged 2-5 years should have their teeth checked prior to commencing work or at six monthly intervals. After the age of five years (when the horse has a full set of permanent teeth) all horse should have at least one annual dental check, more often if the horse is over 20 years of age or have ongoing dental problems. Remember that horses need a high in fibre diet for many reasons; correct tooth wear is only one of them.
Horses chew their food by grinding their teeth from side to side. Incomplete sideways movement’s results in sharp edges forming along the cheek surface (outside) of the upper teeth and the tongue surface (inside) of the lower jaw.
A ridge is left which becomes very sharp and can cut your horse’s tongue or cheeks creating sores that the bit may come in contact with. Or the edges of the tooth can elongate and become very sharp, cutting into the opposing cheek and gums.If the horse’s ability to grind down food sufficiently is compromised for any reason, the enzymes and microbes of the gastrointestinal tract have a hard time continuing the digestive process and one of the results is a drop in condition.Often it is poor condition of the teeth that leads to starvation and premature death in free living horses.
Well cared for domestic horses generally live for a lot longer than free living (wild and feral) horses.This means that their teeth have to last them for a lot longer too.Teeth problems can also cause behavioural problems as the horse attempts to alleviate any pain. Horses need regular dental care if they are to get the maximum benefit from their feed and perform well.
Signs of irregular wear could include - Discomfort while eating “quidding”(the horse will drop a lot of feed while chewing, or turn his head to one side while chewing) - Excessive salivation- Presence of whole corn or other undigested grains in the manure due to improper chewing. This can result in:
- Loss of nutrients for the horse.
- Avoidance of the bit or head tossing.
- Poor athletic performance
- Behavioral problems
- Poor coat and condition