Equine Dental Problems 101


dental problems

Each horse is unique and may experience different dental problems. There are, however, some common issues you should be aware of.

Picture 1Sharp points
These common dental problems involve razor-sharp edges that develop on the cheek side of the upper molars and the tongue side of the lowers. They can cut into the cheek and tongue and result in lacerations, while any headgear, either bridle or halter, forces the soft tissue of the cheeks into the points, causing pain. This condition also interferes with chewing and can trap food particles.

Picture 2Hooks and ramps
Hooks can become so protuberant that they damage soft tissue and bone and limit proper mastication. Ramps, the sloping table surface of the first and last cheek teeth, can inhibit food entry into the tooth battery, lateral excursion, and rostral/caudal or anterior/posterior movement of the mandible. Both hooks and ramps can be limiting factors when it comes to performance.

Picture 3Long or uneven incisors
Incisors that lack abrasion develop excessive table angles and lengths, and other irregularities. These can:
1. Create lack of occlusion of the cheek teeth.
2. Inhibit rostral/caudal movement.
3. Restrict lateral excursion and temporomandibular joint function.

4. Cause mastication dysfunction.

5. Create other biomechanical stresses to all parts of the head.

Picture 4Waves
Crests and valleys occurring on the table surfaces of the cheek teeth create a wave-like appearance when viewed from the side. The high teeth of the wave over-wear the opposing ones, inhibiting lateral excursion and rostral/caudal movement. Waves also restrict the axial flow of food, TMJ function, and good performance, and shorten the lives of the over-worn cheek teeth.

Picture 5Canine teeth
Located behind the incisors, these tusk-like teeth are for fighting, and are rudimentary in females. Canines that are excessively long can interfere with the mastication process by limiting lateral excursion. In a limited number of cases, sharp canines puncture, lacerate and bruise the tongue; the resulting discomfort causes poor attitude and performance.

Picture 6Wolf teeth
These are small teeth located in front of the first premolars. They are normally present in the upper jaw, and occasionally the lower. Wolf teeth can interfere with bitting and mastication and can be easily broken off. They are normally removed between one and two years of age. Blind or un-erupted wolf teeth are not visible but can be extremely painful for the horse. Rather than coming through the gum, they remain below the tissue and may be irritated by pressure while feeding or bitting.

Picture 7Retained caps
When deciduous teeth do not shed properly, they can prevent the permanent ones from erupting into their correct position. At times this can be very painful. Often, dental practitioners remove these retained caps. Horses start losing the caps around two-and-ahalf years of age, so it’s important they be checked frequently.

Good dentistry is vital to your horse’s health, comfort and performance. He should be seen by an equine dentist on a regular basis to correct any dental problems or abnormalities and prevent future issues.

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