Equine Dentistry

Equine Dentistry

What is involved in a “Horse Dental”?

Unsure what it means to “have a dental” done on your horse?

When you arrive with your equine friend we will perform a clinical exam to see if there is any health issues evident that may be linked to dental disease. We will then check how your horse’s teeth work currently by moving the jaws to assess grinding function and look for abnormal movement of the jaws.

We will sedate your horse and examine them in the safety of our horse crush so they can relax without the worry of hurting themselves. By sedating your horse we are able to better examine the individual teeth and pick up on potentially subtle problems before they become a larger issue. We use an instrument called a speculum or mouth gag to hold their mouth open to examine the oral cavity by eye, smell and feel.

Once we have assessed your horse’s mouth and recorded the changes present we will continue with the actual filing procedure – which is known as “floating”. We use a specially designed file to abrade the sharp points or high sections of tooth. When performed correctly this is a non-painful procedure as horses teeth are designed to wear away.

Occasionally we may recommend that your horse has a tooth removed. This procedure is usually done under local anaesthetic.

Your horse will go through several cycles of floating and rinsing until we are happy that the teeth are in the best state they can be.

We also recommend horse have their tetanus vaccinations updated and, depending on the depth of the procedure may sometimes recommend the use of antibiotics and pain relief medications.


At the end of the dental procedure we will recheck that your horse will be able to grind their food properly and will discuss any findings and re-treatment intervals.


How do your teeth grow Mr Ed?

The equine dental formula is as follows: 2 x {I 3/3; C 1/1; PM 3 (or4)/3 (or4); M3/3} which equates to 40 – 44 teeth in an adult horse. The variation related to the presence or absence of the “wolf” teeth. In addition most mares will not have erupted canine teeth.

The way the equine tooth itself is formed is quite amazing. The teeth are designed to erupt slowly over the lifetime of the horse and to wear down to accommodate this newly erupted tooth by the action of grinding against the opposite tooth. As the tooth erupts the pulp cavity (where the blood vessels and nerves are located) retracts meaning this process is not painful for the horse. Eventually this reserve tooth will run out and there will be no new tooth to fill the gap.

It is this feature that allows us to age horses based on their dentition.

It is also as a result of this perpetual wearing process that small changes can result in quite interesting and potentially detrimental alteration to the dental arcades. A tall tooth can catch and lead to the development of more hooks and points as the normal grinding is reduced. We see wave patterns, hooks, ramps, excessive ridges across the wearing surface amongst some of the dental pathology.

Some of this pathology can be corrected by regular dentistry, some cannot so for the health of your horse it is important to have regular dental examinations to maintain optimum oral health and prevent irreversible change.

For more information or to book your equine friend in for a dental please contact us