Due to modified eating patterns resulting from domestication, horses’ teeth require care and attention. Whether it’s for a retained capped tooth or floating (smoothening of sharp edges), regular dental examinations will help you avoid common problems. Since the teeth of a young horse are quite different from mature or senior horses, it’s important to keep track of what to expect at each stage.
Many dental issues found in humans are also prevalent in horses, such as cavities, gingivitis, periodontal disease, and fractured teeth. As with humans, the best remedy is prevention and addressing any problems as early as possible.
Horses are grazing herbivores that chew and grind away with their teeth, wearing them away slowly. They get two sets of teeth in their lifetime: their baby teeth (deciduous teeth) and their adult teeth that begin to grow when they are around 2 ½ years old. An equine dentist or veterinarian will be able to detect any abnormality during the teething process. Retained caps, for example, are often an issue with young horses.
Typically, younger horses will need more examinations than older ones. Since a horse’s deciduous teeth tend to develop sharper edges quickly with the ongoing process of teeth replacement during this stage, it’s important to chart the process, soften the edges, and address any teeth eruption abnormality.
Young and mature horses should have at least one yearly examination by an equine dentist to ensure that their teeth are properly aligned, and they have a correct bite plane for grinding. This prevents any abnormality from developing later, which can be problematic or even incurable for a senior horse. Wolf teeth may also need to be extracted since they are known to cause pain and interfere with the bit.
Senior horses are more likely to develop periodontal disease, so it’s crucial to have them undergo their yearly examination. At an early stage, periodontal disease can be treated, and other abnormalities can be addressed. Along with a dental evaluation, a senior horse’s diet should also be taken into account. Senior horses with dental issues, for example, should avoid coarse hay.
Horses held in stables don’t get the same benefit of continuously grinding up dirt, grit, and the silicate in grass as horses grown in pastures. As a result, the teeth of stabled horses don’t get as much wear, and their food is more likely to consist of processed hays and grains, causing their teeth to grow long and sharp. Points that form on the upper teeth (cheek side) and along the side of the lower teeth can become excessively sharp and painful for the horse, causing ulcers. Smoothening these edges, which is known as floating, helps to prevent complications so that your horse can resume their regular chewing pattern.
As with humans, teeth are indicative of a horse’s overall health. Paying attention to your horse’s teeth throughout its life span will help increase their wellbeing and longevity.
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