Jonathan Jacobs
Our Services

Why do horses require dental treatment?

Horses possess Hypsodont teeth which are teeth that continually erupt through the horse’s life until their mid to late 20’s. Since horses have become domesticated and their natural vegetation removed the rate of wear and the action of the teeth in chewing their food has thereby altered. Such changes have resulted in alterations to the horses wear pattern of its teeth. It should also be remembered that the life expectancy of a wild horse is generally considerably less than that of a domesticated horse. In consideration of these factors, combined with our desire for improved performance of the domesticated horse, regular dental maintenance is a necessity that should not be overlooked.

Indications of Dental Problems and their Causes

The following are common indications of dental problems

  • Head throwing
  • Reluctance to work in outline
  • Difficulty maintaining condition
  • Bleeding from mouth
  • Bad breath
  • Cheeks sensitive
  • Quidding of feed
  • Dunking of hay in water
  • Difficulty in biting
  • Bad attitude
  • Taking hold of the bit
  • Rearing
  • Sores on lips, gums and soft tissue

The following are common causes of such problems:-

  • Protuberant blocking teeth
  • Wolf teeth and/or sharp canines
  • Unerupted teeth
  • Retained dental caps
  • Wave and step mouth
  • Excessive transverse ridges
  • Poorly balanced tooth table angles
  • Impacted teeth
  • Sharp points
  • Hooks/Ramps

Some Dental Terminology Explained

Sharp Enamel Ridges and Overgrowth
The upper jaw of the horse is wider than the lower jaw, and as a result the outer edges of the molar teeth on the upper jaw are rarely in occlusion (contact) with those on the lower jaw. As there is no opposing area of wear, very sharp enamel points will develop on the outer (buccal) edges of the upper molars resulting in great discomfort and probable laceration to the horse’s cheeks.

Similarly, the inside (lingual) edges of the lower molars have little occlusal contact with the upper molars resulting in sharp enamel points on the lower edges. This will in turn result in great discomfort and possible laceration to the tongue.

Protuberant Blocking Teeth
If a horse has lost a tooth within the molar arcade this will result in the opposing tooth having no occlusion and therefore through continued annual eruption will get progressively longer eventually progressing into the gum on the opposing arcade. Only continued maintenance of the unopposed tooth can prevent such discomfort.

Wolf Teeth
Such teeth appear in some 20% of horses and can cause sensitivity to the bit depending upon their location, angle and root size. Their removal under sedation either by or working in conjunction with your vet is a fairly routine procedure.

On certain occasions it may be considered unnecessary to remove such teeth - however reluctance to work in an outline and / or head throwing may be caused by the presence of wolf teeth.

Retained Caps
By the age of 5 a horse will normally have shed all its deciduous teeth. As the permanent teeth erupt the deciduous teeth are gradually absorbed until all that normally remains is a ’cap’ sitting on top of the permanent teeth . It is important to ensure that caps have been shed as it is possible that a retained cap may present problems to the erupting permanent tooth. Extraction of a retained cap is a relatively simple procedure.

Excessive Transverse Ridges (ETR)
This is a raised and sharp area on the surface of the upper or lower molar which arises when occlusal contact with the opposing tooth is compromised. This can have a variety of causes, though commonly it is due to misaligned upper and lower arcades. Reduction of the ETR by use of the appropriate float (rasp) and if possible determining and addressing the cause will be the required course of action.

Hooks/Ramps
A very common problem occurring either on the first or last molar of upper or lower arcades again when molars are not in correct alignment with each other. A Hook is much steeper than a Ramp and far more pointed. Both will result in much discomfort in the horse and both are simply corrected with the appropriate use of a float.

Service Procedures & Costs

The aforementioned dental problems are just some examples of some of the factors which may affect your horse’s well being and performance. There are many other issues such as incisors and disease which I have not touched upon. Below is a selection of the procedures and services we offer.

  • Brief introduction to the horse including type of use e.g., hack, showing, cross country, show jumping, dressage or polo.
  • External palpation of the jaw.
  • Check for any sensitivity of the Tempromandibular Joint (TMJ).
  • Examination of incisors.
  • Placement of a speculum (device similar to head collar fitted with upper and lower incisor plates on a graduated ratchet system) to allow for visual inspection of the molar arcades.
  • Removal of sharp points.
  • Float and balance of molar arcades.
  • Removal of Hooks/Ramps/Excessive Transverse Ridges/Protuberant teeth/Step Mouth.
  • Ensure correct angle of molar arcades.
  • Create bit seats (where necessary).
  • Check and removal if necessary of deciduous teeth if deemed to be interfering with eruption of permanent teeth.
  • To smooth, and if necessary, shorten overlong canines.
  • Check for wolf teeth.
  • Float incisor teeth (if necessary).
  • To provide a worksheet giving the owner a written summary of the work carried out and a recommended maintenance schedule.

My normal charge for this service is 40.00.

In certain situations where extensive work is required a second visit may be required at reduced cost.