Your horses teeth are a very important care issue and should be regularly checked and monitored.
You should have your horse regularly checked by a qualified Equine Dental Technician or Vet every 6 months to one year, dental problems can cause poor performance and health issues.
Your Horses Teeth
Your horse will have 6 upper incisors, 6 lower incisors, 12 pre molars and 12 molars. Males can have the addition of wolf teeth and up to 4 canines ( tushes ), although some mares can have 1 or 2 canines. Your horses teeth are made up of the following:
- Tables - This is the upper wearing surface of the tooth.
- Neck - This is the part of the tooth which is surrounded by the gums.
- Pulp cavity - This is the inner cavity of the tooth and is filled with soft connective tissue known as pulp.
- Enamel - This is the protective outer surface of the tooth.
- Root - This is the part of the tooth which is in the gums.
- Crown - This is the visible upper part of the tooth.
- Dentine - Supports the crown and is softer than enamel
- Cementum - Is produced in the root of a tooth and allows ligaments to attach to the root therefore offering stability.
Ageing your horse
By looking at your horses teeth you will be able to judge how old they are. As a horse gets older the tooth shape changes and different signs are visible allowing you to roughly judge your horses age. The younger the horse the rounder the shape of the teeth will be with age the shape turns to more of a triangle then rectangular shape, getting longer and more sloped as time goes on.
- Tables - These are the visible surface of the incisors.
- Cup - Is the central part of the infundubulum and in a younger horse it will be round in shape and gets worn away as the horse gets older until just a smallenamel mark is left. At the age of 6 the lower jaw central incisors lose their cup followed by the Intermediate Incisors at the age of 7 and the corner incisors at the age of 8. The upper incisors follow the same pattern with the upper central incisors losing their cup at 9, the intermediate at 10 and the upper corner incisors at 11 years old.
- Canine teeth or Tushes appear around 4 to 5 years of age.
- Mark or Dental star - This is the inner pulp cavity and first appears on the lower central incisors at the age of 6 showing itself as a thin dark line that sits in front of the cup. The intermediate incisors show their Dental star at 7 years of age and the corner incisors at 8 years old.
- Hook - This appears on the upper corner incisors and is when the incisors grows longer at the back and hooks itself over the edge of the lower incisors, this hook will be worn away by the age of 8. A horse can also have a hook appear at the age of 13/14 years of age which again will wear away within a year.
- Galvaynes groove - At approximately 10 years of age a small groove will start to grow down from the upper corner incisor, this groove will carry on down the incisor tooth and will reach the end at around 20 years old, it then starts to vanish and will have disappeared by the time the horse reaches the age of 30 years old.
Signs That Your Horse Needs Its Teeth Checked
- Difficulty in chewing and dropping half chewed food.
- Head shaking
- Resisting the bit, bridle.
- Eating very slowly.
- Regular colic episodes.
- Excessive salivation.
- Failure to keep condition on.
- Nasal discharge.
- Bad smell coming from the mouth area.
- Discharge coming from the mouth due to an abscess.
Equine Dental Problems
- Hooks - Are sharp edges that prevent the horse from chewing from side to side and causes uneven wear of the molars
- Ramps - Prevents horse from correctly chewing from side to side and grinding food.
- Step - Produce uneven wear of molars, and prevent the jaw from moving sideways and forwards, it is caused when one molar grows longer than the others.
- Wave - This is when two molars are at a different height than the others and causes uneven wear and difficulty in chewing.
- Shear - This affects the horses chewing and grinding ability and is caused when one edge of the molar surface is greatly higher than the other.
- Points - Sharp edges that can cause sores to the gums and the tongue.
- Excessive transverse ridges - Sharp and uneven ridges that cause eating problems.
- Wolf teeth - Male horses may have to have these removed as they come into contact with the bit.
- Ventral Curvature - The upper jaw incisors curve upwards where they are growing faster than the lower incisors.
- Dorsal Curvature - The upper jaw incisors curve downwards where they are growing faster than the lower incisors.
- Overbite - The upper jaw incisors are further out in front than the lower incisors causing the upper and lower incisors to not properly meet together.
- Underbite - The lower jaw incisors are further out than the upper incisors causing them not to join together at the front.
- Overjet - This is where the upper incisors protrude over the lower incisors.
- Underjet - This is where the lower incisors protrude over the upper incisors.
- Missing Incisors - Where an incisor is literally not there.
- Diagonal Bite - The Incisors do not align together instead they are off at an angle.
- Bit Seat - This is where the Incisors are smoothed off to allow the bit to sit more comfortably in the horses mouth.
Your equine dentist will have a variety of tools in order to successfully assess and treat your horses mouth for example.
- Mouth Gags - These come in different sizes with adjustable settings, made of stainless steel often with a leather harness.
- Mouth Wedge
- Blades - Various blades for different rasps and tasks.
- Tooth rasps - come in different sizes and angles.
- Extraction Equipment - Different shapes and sizes to extract molars or incisors.
- Tooth cutters - Different sizes for molars or incisors.
- Canine cutters - Made of stainless steel and available in different sizes.
- Canine Files - Made of stainless steel often with a rough grit finish to the blade.
- Bone cutters - Available in different sizes
- Forceps - Different sizes and shapes made of stainless steel.
- Flashlight - Easy to wear
- Motorised Equipment