How can I tell if my horse needs a dental?

There are many common signs that your horse is due for a dental examination. Every horse requires a dental check at least once per year. However, as uneven wear and dental disease arise, it’s important you know what to look out for.

 Regular dental care is paramount for your horse’s health, wellbeing and performance. Without healthy dentition, your horse is unable to chew, digest and absorb the nutrients in their food — leading to loss of condition, health problems and poor performance.

Due to their unique dentition — whereby your horse’s teeth erupt throughout their life — your horse requires a dental examination at least once per year. In addition, any horse above 16 years of age or with a history of dental problems will require two or more dental checks annually.

However, uneven tooth wear and dental disease, resulting in pain and discomfort, can arise between check-ups. So, how do you know if there are problems?

Signs of Dental Problems

 Dropping food, also called quidding, is one of the common signs that your horse is due for a dental. Most often, when your horse experiences pain at feed time, they may adopt an unusual chewing pattern to alleviate this comfort and, thus, drop their food.

However, quidding is not the only common sign of dental problems. You may also notice:

  • Dull coat
  • Loss of condition
  • Head shaking or tossing
  • Excessive saliva production
  • Poor appetite or reluctance to eat
  • Bad breath
  • Nasal discharge
  • Blood in the saliva
  • Blood on the bit
  • Undigested feed in the manure
  • Head tilting while eating
  • Colic
  • Facial swelling
  • Behavioural problems

If your horse is showing any of these signs, we encourage you to contact your equine veterinarian immediately. Dental problems can quickly lead to other health and behavioural issues, which cause distress to your horse.


  • Dr Louise Cosgrove

    The founder of Exclusively Equine Veterinary Services, Louise is driven to support horses in their recovery from injury or illness. A graduate of the University of Queensland, with international equin...

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