Post-dentistry care for your horse

Depending on the procedure, post-dentistry care in horses varies from simple observation and temporary confinement to administering antibiotics and pain medication.

Your equine dentist is coming to “do” your horse’s teeth. What can you expect afterwards? Your horse obviously shouldn’t be ridden immediately after dental work, but what else should you do for his post-dentistry care?

Dental problems in horses

In horses, the upper jaw is wider than the lower jaw, so they develop sharp points on the outside of the upper cheek teeth and on the inside of the lower cheek teeth. As horses age, they can develop dental issues such as loose teeth, spaces between teeth (diastema) that pack feed, wave mouth, and fractured, expired or “worn out” teeth. We’re also seeing an increase in the number of horses with Equine Odontoclastic Tooth Resorption and Hypercementosis (EOTRH), a disease primarily affecting the incisors and surrounding tissues. All these issues require a complete oral exam and varying levels of treatment and aftercare.

We’re seeing an increase in the number of horses with Equine Odontoclastic Tooth Resorption and Hypercementosis (EOTRH), a disease primarily affecting the incisors and surrounding tissues.

In most cases, a complete oral exam entails sedation and the use of an oral speculum and mirror or oral scope. This allows your veterinarian to thoroughly examine the teeth and surrounding tissue and to ascertain what treatment is needed.

The inside of a horse’s mouth as seen with an oral speculum and a good light. All photos courtesy of Heather Hoyns.

1. Floating

For horses whose teeth only require floating (filing off sharp points), aftercare is minimal. There is no pain associated with the procedure. Aftercare simply consists of keeping the horse from eating until he is awake enough to remember to chew his food thoroughly before swallowing, generally about one hour, and keeping him confined for about three hours to make sure he is completely awake before he is turned out with his friends.

2. Extractions

If your young horse has had his wolf teeth extracted, he will have already had some local anesthesia in addition to sedation. Since most wolf teeth are in the upper jaw, there is little chance of feed packing into the extraction site. Aftercare is the same as with floating, with the added difference that you should avoid putting a bit in the horse’s mouth for about ten days, until the sites heal.

Dr. Hoyns examines a horse’s teeth using a light and mirror.

Horses who have had cheek teeth (molars or premolars) extracted require a higher level of aftercare. They will have had both regional and local anesthesia in addition to sedation, as well as IV pain medication, at the time of the extraction. Continuing care usually consists of antibiotics for a number of days, and several more days of pain medication. Often, your veterinarian will want to see the horse in two to four weeks for a re-check examination. If the alveolus was packed, your veterinarian will most likely remove it at this time.

3. Equine Odontoclastic Tooth Resorption and Hypercementosis

EOTRH is a painful disease primarily involving the incisors and canine teeth. The bone and surrounding gums become inflamed and infected. Treatment involves extracting the affected teeth, which often means extracting all of the incisors in the arcade. There is often not enough gum tissue to completely close the surgery site, so healing is by second intention. It will take several weeks for the area to heal completely. Sedation, regional and local anesthesia are used, along with IV pain medication. Aftercare includes flushing the extraction sites, since they tend to accumulate feed particles. The horse will also receive antibiotics and pain medication for a number of days. Again, your veterinarian may want to see the horse for a re-check examination.

Keep in mind that each horse is an individual, and the recommendations for dental aftercare will reflect this individuality.


Dr. Heather Hoyns owns Evergreen Equine of Vermont, located in West Windsor, Vermont, where she practices general equine medicine. A graduate of Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, she places special emphasis on basic and referral equine dentistry. Contact her via phone at 802-484-9100, email, or visit