Horse Dental Care: The Key to a Healthy and Happy Equine

horse dental disease

Horses are beautiful creatures that require regular care, and dental care is one of the most important aspects of their well-being. Horse dental care is an essential part of their health, and it involves regular check-ups, cleaning, and treatments. Taking care of your horse’s teeth can help prevent dental problems and ensure that they have a healthy and comfortable life. In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about horse dental care, including how many teeth horses have, what is mastication, horse teeth problem symptoms, horse dental diseases, floating a horse’s teeth, and more.

About Your Horse’s Teeth

Horses are herbivores, and their teeth are designed to help them chew and digest their food efficiently. Their teeth are also vital for their overall health, as they can develop dental problems that can cause discomfort and pain. Horses have two sets of teeth, deciduous (baby) teeth, and permanent teeth. Their deciduous teeth start to erupt at around two weeks of age, and they have a total of 24 deciduous teeth. These deciduous teeth start to fall out at around 2 ½ years old, and they are replaced by permanent teeth. Horses have a total of 36 to 44 permanent teeth, depending on their age and breed.

How Many Teeth Do Horses Have?

Adult horses have a total of 36 to 44 permanent teeth. Their teeth are divided into four types, incisors, canines, premolars, and molars. Horses have 12 incisors, six on the top and six on the bottom. Their incisors are located at the front of their mouth, and they are used to grasp and cut their food. They also have four canines, two on the top and two on the bottom. Their canines are located next to their incisors and are usually larger in male horses. Horses also have 12 premolars and 12 molars. Their premolars and molars are located in the back of their mouth and are used for grinding and crushing their food.

What is Mastication?

Mastication is the process of chewing food in the mouth. When horses eat, they use their incisors to grasp and cut the food, and then their molars and premolars to grind and crush it. Proper mastication is crucial for the horse’s overall health and digestion. If the horse’s teeth are not properly aligned, it can cause problems with mastication, which can lead to digestive problems and weight loss.

Horse Teeth Problems Symptoms

Horse dental problems can cause discomfort, pain, and other health issues if not treated promptly. Here are some of the most common horse teeth problems symptoms to look out for:

  • Difficulty eating or dropping food while eating
  • Weight loss or decreased appetite
  • Bad breath or foul odor from the mouth
  • Mouth sores or ulcers
  • Swelling or abscesses in the mouth or face
  • Head shaking or head tilting
  • Difficulty bridling or resisting the bit
  • Excessive salivation or drooling
  • Swollen or bleeding gums

If you notice any of these symptoms, it is important to contact horse dentistry near you as soon as possible to schedule an appointment.

Horse Dental Diseases

Horse dental diseases are common and can cause serious health issues if left untreated. Here are some of the most common horse dental diseases:

  • Periodontal disease – This is a bacterial infection that affects the gums and can cause tooth loss and other health issues.
  • Tooth decay – Tooth decay can cause pain, discomfort, and tooth loss.
  • Malocclusion – Malocclusion occurs when the horse’s teeth are not properly aligned, which can cause problems with mastication and can lead to digestive issues and weight loss.
  • EOTRH – Equine Odontoclastic Tooth Resorption and Hypercementosis is a dental disease that affects older horses and causes the tooth roots to break down, leading to tooth loss and pain.
  • Wolves, or “wolf teeth,” are small teeth that can be found in front of a horse’s molars. These teeth can cause pain and discomfort for the horse and can interfere with the bit during riding. Wolf’s teeth are typically removed by a veterinarian or equine dentist using dental instruments such as forceps or elevators.

What Does it Mean to “Float” a Horse’s Teeth?

Floating a horse’s teeth is a dental procedure that involves filing down the sharp edges and points on the horse’s teeth. Over time, the horse’s teeth can become uneven due to uneven wear or malocclusion, which can cause discomfort and pain during mastication. Floating the teeth can help ensure that the horse’s teeth are properly aligned and prevent dental problems from developing.

During the floating procedure, a veterinarian or equine dentist will use specialized horse dental tools and equipment, such as a float, to file down the sharp edges of the horse’s teeth. The procedure is usually done under sedation to ensure that the horse is calm and relaxed during the process.

What Can Be Done To Correct This?

If your horse has dental problems such as malocclusion, overgrown teeth, or dental disease, there are several treatments available to correct these issues. The appropriate treatment depends on the severity of the dental problem and the individual horse’s needs.

  • Floating: As mentioned earlier, floating is a common dental procedure used to file down the sharp edges of the horse’s teeth. This procedure can help correct minor dental issues and prevent dental problems from developing.
  • Extractions: In some cases, a tooth may need to be extracted if it is causing pain or other health problems. Extractions are typically done under sedation and require post-operative care to ensure proper healing.
  • Restorative procedures: If a horse has significant dental damage or malocclusion, restorative procedures may be necessary. These procedures involve reshaping or repairing the teeth using dental composite or other materials.
  • Surgery: In rare cases, surgery may be necessary to correct severe dental issues, such as a tooth root abscess or EOTRH. Surgical procedures can be complex and may require a longer recovery time.

Preventative measures such as regular dental check-ups, cleaning, and floating can help prevent dental problems from developing and reduce the need for corrective procedures. 

How Often Should Horses’ Teeth be Floated?

The frequency of dental floating for horses depends on several factors, such as age, breed, and dental health. In general, horses should have their teeth checked at least once a year, and floating may be needed every 1-3 years, depending on the individual horse’s dental needs. Older horses may require more frequent dental check-ups and floating as dental diseases such as EOTRH become more common with age.


Horse dental care is an essential aspect of their overall health and well-being. Regular dental check-ups, cleaning, and treatments can help prevent dental problems from developing and ensure that your horse has a healthy and comfortable life. Consult with a veterinarian or equine dentist to determine the appropriate dental care plan for your horse and ensure that they receive the best possible care.

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