Horse Teeth Facts
The horse is a unique animal when it comes to teeth. Like humans, horses need routine dental care to stay healthy. Unlike humans, horses will constantly erupt new teeth throughout their lifetime. Left untended, horse teeth can cause great pain and make your horse unruly and difficult to ride.
In horses, the maxillary is wider than the mandible and the upper premolars and molars can develop an edge which can irritate and lacerate the cheeks. The mandible premolars and molars can also develop an edge, which can lacerate the tongue. The enamel edge may cause pain to the horse, causing the horse to alter the way they eat and how they accept the bit. Sharp molar edges also can cause uneven wear to the molar arcade.
Floating horse’s teeth (the leveling and removal of this enamel edge) should be done 1-2 times a year. Frequency will depend on age of the horse, performance, and the overall confirmation of the horse’s teeth.
The young horse between the ages of 2 ½ and 4 ½ will lose 24 teeth, called deciduous teeth or also known as caps. At this age the horse should be floated every 6 months because the teeth are very soft at this young age and an edge will develop very quickly. Also, deciduous teeth shed and tooth fragments can remain in the mouth and irritate the horse when being ridden and while eating.
A mature adult horse will have between 36-44 teeth. Adult horses will have 12 incisors (the front teeth). Incisors are used to grab and tear the grass. Male horses have 4 canine teeth (used for fighting). Canine teeth sit right behind the incisors. Both males and females can have 0-4 wolf teeth, (usually removed for fear of interference with the bit) and 6 premolars and 6 molars. Premolars come in as baby teeth and then shed off when the adult tooth is erupting, and molars only come in as an adult tooth.
Most horses will have some sort of dental malocclusions. They can have an overbite, an undershot bite, a wave mouth, a step mouth, fractured molars, decaying molars, small to large hooks, and rear ramps on the molars. Keeping your horse on a routine dental program can prevent long-term irreversible tooth damage. This will aid the horse in performance, and will help your horse live a long and productive life.