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The Importance of Maintaining Your Horse’s Dental Health

Horse dental tools

Dental checkups are essential for horses. At Ryerss Farm, each horse needs at least one dental visit per year. As a horse becomes older, the shape and angle of its teeth begin to change and some problems may occur. This is why giving the gift of a dental examination at Ryerss is so important.

Horse getting dental check at Ryerss

Time for a Check-Up

It is often easy to spot dental issues in your horse. Look for signs of discomfort. If you notice weight loss, changes in eating or drinking habits, irregular movement of the lower jaw, bumps or enlargement on jaw/side of the face, excess salivation, bleeding from the mouth, swelling or distortion of lips, or tooth displacement then your horse is in desperate need of some dental care. Performance-related issues that may indicate dental problems for horses with a bit in their mouths include refusal to work and head tossing.

Typically, horses that live indoors part of the time often need more dental care. This is because they spend less time chewing compared to horses that spend more time outdoors grazing. If not routinely checked, less time chewing can lead to irritation and cause your horse pain.

Mark Cheshire, Ryerss' equine dentist

At Ryerss, our equine dentist, Mark Cheshire (pictured to the left), is scheduled to administer to our residents’ dental needs. Recently, two of our horses, Lassie (left) and Pete, had their teeth floated. Floating is a procedure which files down horses’ teeth. Floating must be done once a year.

Lassie the horse receiving her annual floating

Lassie receiving her annual floating

Pete with Dr. Cheshire and Amber Slaymaker, our Animal Welfare Manager.

Pete with Dr. Cheshire and Amber Slaymaker, our Animal Welfare Manager.

Depending on the age of the horse, different examinations will be checked during each dental visit:

Foal showing teeth

Birth - 18 Months Dental Exams check for:

  • Birth defects related to head symmetry or chewing function

  • Proper eruption of teeth

  • Incisor alignment

  • Sharp enamel points on teeth

  • Improper position and number of teeth

  • Abnormal wear

Horse dental exam

18 - 52 Months Dental Exams check for:

  • Eruption cysts in the gums over permanent teeth

  • Gingivitis (inflammation of gums)

  • Periodontal disease

  • Loose or infected caps or cap slivers

  • Sharp enamel points on the premolar, molar, and wolf teeth

  • Unequal eruption of permanent incisors

  • Rounding of edges of front cheek teeth

4 - 10 Years Dental Exams check for:

  • Contact and balance of bite surface

  • Sharp enamel points on cheek teeth

  • Sharp edges of cheek teeth which interfere with the bit

  • Jaw balance

  • Symmetry, contact, length, and balance of incisors

10 - 18 Years Dental Exams check for:

  • Abnormalities of wear that can lead to abnormal crown wear, crown fracture, and periodontal disease

  • “Wave” mouth due to abnormalities of wear on central molars making teeth look wave-like

  • Sharp enamel points on teeth that may require extensive correction

  • Balance of tooth alignment

  • Length of canine teeth if needed

18 and Older Dental Exams check for:

  • Periodontal disease (60 percent to 80 percent incidence)

  • Tartar accumulation

  • Gingivitis

  • Tooth loosening

  • Loss of grinding surface of teeth

  • Abnormalities of wear

  • Need for geriatric diet

  • Sharp enamel points on teeth

  • Balance between upper and lower jaws

Keeping Your Horse’s Teeth in Prime Condition

To help avoid weaker teeth, feeding your horse less concentrates and more roughage will allow the teeth to wear correctly. Make sure to schedule yearly visits with your veterinarian (or equine dentist) to have your horse’s teeth checked.

Donate the gift of a healthy smile! Visit our website to find out more about this program.

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