From the Horse's Mouth
Date: January 4th, 2012
By Amanda E. Compton, Equine Dental Technician
"Horses are living longer lives, in part, because they are getting dental care and good nutrition," states Amanda E. Compton, an Equine Dental Technician (EqDT) from Clear Brook, Virginia. "Equine dental care is important for your horse’s health and performance." What follows are insights and guidelines for providing your horse with the best dental care that Amanda shared with EquuSSource, a Southern States Equine publication.
Horses with dental problems may show obvious signs, such as pain or irritation of the mouth. Other indications of dental problems include: loss of feed from mouth while eating, difficulty chewing or excess salivation, loss of body condition, large and undigested food particles in manure, head tilting or tossing, bit chewing, tongue lolling, fighting the bit or resisting the bridle, bucking or failing to stop or turn, foul odor from mouth or nostrils, traces of blood in mouth, nasal discharge or swelling of the face. Some horses may show no noticeable signs because they adapt to their discomfort. For this reason, have your veterinarian or EDT thoroughly examine and float your horse’s teeth at least once a year.
Floating is the most common equine dental procedure. Floating is the "rasping" or filing of points on the teeth to prevent them from cutting the cheek or tongue. The goal of floating is to maintain the symmetry and balance of the arcade and to allow free chewing motion. But floating teeth is just one of many procedures that may be available from your veterinarian or Equine Dental Technician. Many other dental problems can develop and go undetected until severe pain becomes obvious.
The age of a horse affects the degree of attention and frequency of dental care required. Consider these points:
- Horses going into training for the first time, especially 2 and 3 year olds, need a comprehensive dental check-up. This should be done before training begins to prevent training problems related to sharp teeth.
- Horses ages 2-5 require more frequent dental exams than older horses. Deciduous, or baby teeth, tend to be softer than permanent teeth and may develop sharp enamel points more quickly. Also, there is an extraordinary amount of dental maturation during this period. Horses in this age group should be examined twice a year, and any necessary procedures should be performed.
- Geriatrics may need exams twice per year, due to tooth loss, decay, or advancing periodontal disease.
If your horse’s teeth are regularly cared for, the maintenance process will not be overwhelming and you should be able to avoid most dental or health complications. Depending on your horse’s diet, hardness of teeth and jaw alignment, he may need floating on an annual basis or perhaps on a semi-annual basis. By keeping an eye on your horse’s teeth, an equine dental professional can determine how quickly your horse’s dental surfaces are changing and get them cared for before complications arise.
Amanda Compton is an Equine Dental Technician (EDT) in Clear Brook, Virginia.