Horse Dentistry by Brian Stuart

Modern testing comfirms the value of a well floated mouth. A study at the University of Saskatchewan found another positive effect of a well floated mouth. Floating seems to increase the mobility in a horses jaw, which may account for the improved performance after a floating. The researchers studied the effects of floating 59 horses with no previous history of dental problems. Measurments were taken of each horse’s rostrocaudal mobility or the degree to which the jaw moves forward and backward. These measurement suggest what flexibility could be expected at the pole. Next 33 horse were floated while the remainder were left untouched to serve as controls. When the rostrocaudal mobility was again checked, a striking difference emerged. 31 of the 33 horses had an average of 3 millimeters increase in jaw mobility. How might this benefit the horse/athelete? This increased mobility should make it easier for the dressage horse (as an example) to adopt and maintain a frame.

Let’s start at the beginning, with the term float which is a Greek word. Masons float cement; it means to level. That’s the general idea behind most dental procedures. Why do horses need their teeth floated? They have twenty four cheekteeth also known as molars and premolars that are always erupting . The upper teeth in the molar section overhang the lower teeth. As the horse chews the parts that meet wear away, but those that don’t lengthen . These areas that are lengthening often come to a point or a hook. These hooks eventually begin to cut the cheek or tongue. These hooks should be filed off and blended back into the tooth . Another frequently seen problem is when one or more molars overgrow; perhaps it’s because there is not an opposing tooth. Sometimes the opposing tooth is weaker due to some flaw. Whatever the reason an overgrowing tooth is a problem. The tooth must be filed back to where it belongs or it will cause trouble. Teeth are prematurely lost and the mechanics of the mouth are impaired if these problems aren’t addressed. Addressing these problems through floating should be 99% of a lay dentists business.
Wolf Teeth are vestigal molars that no longer are used for chewing food. They almost always develop in the upper bar immediatley ahead of the 2nd premolar (1st cheektooth). They should be removed before young horses are broke to ride or drive. They will never cause a problem during eating because they are not involved in chewing. If they fail to break through the gum, they are called blind wolf teeth. Blind wolf teeth should be removed if there are training issues.

Canine Teeth are usually found in stallions and geldings , mares sometimes get very small immature canines. In the wild they are a fighting tooth; however,for the domesticated horses of today, they are a nuisance . Though it’s nice to give them a blunter shape, they pose little risk of injuring your horse . The greater risk is to the rider when tacking up . Beware the big production over shaping up the canine teeth . They are easy to get at and consequently the favorite tooth of the huckster .

Incisors are in the front of the mouth . They are used for cutting grasses when grazing . Until recently they received little attention from lay dentists. Lately, a theory is gaining some adherents that suggests the filing of incisors will relieve pain in temporomandibular joint or TMJ. Though this must be possible in some cases, overall it is unlikely.

Take care of your horses teeth, it will pay off in a healthy happy horse who can perform to the best of his ability.

This information was excerpted from Equine Dentist Brian Stuart’s informative web site, or you can call him at 845.386.2237.