Equine Dentistry is rarely used as a first line defense in animal health and it should be. Many problems a horse may have such as weight loss and behavior problems can be directly linked to dental issues. The background of equine dentistry and steps you can take to determine if you need to call an equine dentist are provided below.
A special thank you to our contributor, Edye Lucas Longoria of Oklahoma Equine Dentistry, for her contribution.
Contact Edye at 405-417-4918 to schedule an appointment.
Here's how you check to see if your horse needs his teeth done .... it's also a good way to check and see if he was done correctly. You will not be able to tell if you're horse has large hooks in the back without a speculum to open his mouth, but this technique will tell you if the surfaces are balanced and whether or not the jaw has proper lateral movement:
Face your horse, place your right hand on the top of his nose and your left hand under his chin..... Elbows out to the side ..... (Opposite if you're left handed). Keep his nose down.... Lean slightly over his nose with your right shoulder .... Make sure his tongue is in and his teeth are closed together..... Keep steady but light pressure with your right upper arm and hand, use your left hand to slide the lower jaw slowly from one side to the other. Pull to the left and then push over to the right as far as you can, keeping moderate pressure. You want the jaw to slide from side to side, all the way across without getting stuck, caught or snagged ...... You want to hear and feel teeth grinding all the way across in both directions.
To check and see if your dentist put bitseats in your horses mouth:
Slide your thumb along the upper bar until you hit the first upper cheek tooth ... It should be round and smooth .... Not square, not pointy. Not sharp. Don't get bit!!! Many horses won't cooperate well.
Horses chew and grind their food by sliding their lower jaw teeth from side to side, grinding the lower teeth against the upper teeth. When sharp points, waves, hooks or other protuberances are present, lateral movement (sliding motion) is limited. This can cause weird eating habits to develop in addition to weight loss, bitting issues, head tossing, irritability, etc.
All horses !! I SAID ALL HORSES !! need their teeth done once a year starting at age 2 or 2.5. No horse is different .... Their teeth grow all the time - just like their feet! Their teeth are constantly growing and erupting throughout their entire lifespan.
People can't see it so they tend to ignore it or simply just don't believe it. Old time know-it-all Cowboys tend to be the biggest goofballs when it comes to teeth. "I ain't never had no teeth done!"...... So I very nicely tell them about the hieroglyphics on the walls in ancient Egypt of people filing their horses teeth. And if Jesus filed his horses teeth - SO SHOULD WE. Amen!!!
Don't ever think your horse is special and doesn't his teeth floated and balanced ... Feed dropping or not ... That has absolutely nothing to do with it. NOTHING!!! Some drop feed, some don't. Some drop feed no matter condition the teeth are in, good or bad. Some reasons horses drop feed are:
Eating too fast or too slow....
Taking huge bites
Eating off the ground
Looking around while they eat
Some horses will drop oats but not pellets, some drop pellets but not oats, some drop sweet feed but not oats ..... You get it.
It's always best to feed horses off the ground so as to mimic their natural environment, which helps keep the teeth ground down. If your horse is a sloppy eater then try putting his feed in a trough or large tub where the food can be spread around, limiting the intake of large mouthfuls.
Here are some helpful photos that I think you'll find informative. None of the horses pictured here supposedly needed their done! lol. Say what??!! All the before and after pics are of my own personal work!!!!! My partner and I travel throughout the U.S. educating owners on the importance of equine dentistry..... We would love to help you too!!!! ~ Edye