Q:Does my horse need dentistry?
A: The short answer is yes. The slightly longer one is yes, if you haven’t had your horses done in the last 6 to 12 months.
Q: Why does my horse need dentistry?
- Horses have hyposodont teeth (means long teeth) The tooth is fully formed and grown in the horses mouth once the “adult” teeth are in. These teeth constantly “erupt”, push out of the gum line as the horse ages. The reason for this is that horses eat roughly 18 hours a day. If you think about that in terms of taking 2 bricks and rubbing them together for 18 hours a day. 7 days a week. 52 weeks a year…..etc etc. Picture the sate of the brick after a year. Its going to wear out and become smaller. Same thing happens with the teeth. So in order to keep your horse alive and eating the periodontal ligament pushes the tooth out so that as it wears there is fresh tooth to replace it with.
- Because of this “growth” teeth are prone to become overlarge in some cases. Most notably “hooks” formed by a misalignment of the jaw, like an overbite, or in the case of a horse loosing one of its lower molars, its opposite tooth will have nothing to grind against and will then grow down into the gap left behind. This is called a protuberant tooth.
*The above horse has “hooks” these are overgrowths of tooth usually cause by a misaligned jaw. If you look at the top pic without the drawing you can see that the top jaw, the front 2 molars (106 & 206) are vastly overgrown.
The next picture shows the problem teeth (circled in red) the height the teeth should be at if the teeth were in normal wear (white lines) and damage caused to the cheeks (circled in yellow).
Q: How often should I have my horses teeth done?
A: Usually every 6 months. This is based on the horse being a ridden horse (so not a lawnmower, companion horse or brood stock). An it is also on the basis that the horse has no major abnormalities in the mouth.
If your horse is a brood mare, retired horse etc etc and is not ridden, or is ridden without the use of a bit )so hackamore, neck strap etc etc then you will more than likely only need the teeth done once a year.
Lastly if the horse is retired, has good teeth and lives out you could probably do it in 18 month intervals.
*There is a caveat to all of this. Each horse is different so you may find that what I am saying here is different to what you get told face to face as there are many contributing factors. Previous dentistry also has a role to play here (I mean when it was last done).
Q: At what age should I start my horses dentistry?
A: I suggest that you do it before you ride the horse for the first time. SO if you plan on backing your horse at 3 then maybe start 2.5. If you are planning on starting at 4 however I would still do aim for the 2.5 mark. Sadly there are horses backed at a year. Try and do them just before that age.
Q: Why do I need to do my horses teeth for riding?
A: Horses have sharp teeth. The sharp teeth damage the cheeks. The horses normal shop (for teeth) leaves a thin sharp strip on the front face of the molars that the bit comes into contact with. In order to make the horse more comfortable to ride, I put in bit seats to move the sharp parts.
Q: What is a bit seat?
A: If you look at a horses front molars (106,206,306 &406-these numbers are the specific numbers for those teeth) from a birds eye view. The tooth looks similar to a ships prow. If you look from the side it looks like a brick. The front face of these teeth is quite thin and the top point is quite sharp. When you pull back on the bit you crush the soft sensitive cheeks between a thin sharp piece of tooth and a steel bit. This can and does cause considerable discomfort and damage to the horses mouth.
Here is a picture of the damage to the cheeks caused by riding. This is a multifaceted issue however as this is a young horse. The horse has wolf teeth. the horse also has caps (baby teeth that are coming out). All of these are going to add up to a horse that “doesn’t listen” because of the pain in its most. Mainly for the wolf tooth but also from the caps. This will cause the horse to toss its head. At this point the rider will normally apply more pressure to the mouth to “yank” to make the horse “listen, which in turn causes more issues and more damage. Rather just do the teeth.
- Blue circle is the wolf tooth. Green is the deciduous cap 9baby tooth) Red circle is mac damage caused to the cheek. Hello is 2 smaller areas of damage caused by the bit.
Q: What is a wolf tooth? Must it come out?
- A wolf tooth is a tiny premolar that grows mainly on the top jaw, in front of the 106 & 206 (first molars that you see). The wolf tooth can and does grow on the bottom jaw but its not common. ( I have seen 8 in 11 years). The reason we don’t like them is that they cause discomfort to most horses that use bits. The tooth is small and not too well rooted. It is not a terribly strong tooth and usually there is a gap between the molar and the wolf tooth. SO wha this all adds up to is that the tooth can snap when too much pressure is applied via the bit. The tooth is usually sharp so why you pull the bit the cheeks press against the tooth causing discomfort. Along with this the tooth can move and the movement (with bit pressure) is backwards towards the molar. This can pinch the gum tissue between the wolf tooth and the molar. Again this all causes discomfort.
- As a result of this it is usually a good idea to pull the tooth. I say usually as there are always exceptions in life. So, if you use a bitless bridle or bitless riding style you won’t necessarily need them out. If the horse is 10 and you never noticed them, they probably don’t need to come out.
Q: How do I know if my horse has wolf teeth?
A: Usually the horse will shake its head, toss its head or seriously try to avoid contact.