Horse teeth

Does the tooth fairy come to horses?

Yes, the tooth fairy does come to horses, but not how you may expect. At Exclusively Equine, we have a team of tooth fairies – better known as qualified equine dental veterinarians – who will care for your horse’s teeth during their dental examination.  At Exclusively Equine, we recommend that all horses receive their first dental examination between six and 12 months of age, unless dental problems arise earlier. Routine dental care typically involves a dental examination once annually. However, for horses above 16 years of age or those with dental problems, two or more dental examinations each year may be necessary for optimum health. Let’s take a closer look at the work these tooth fairies do… The Dental Examination  Just like us, your horse too requires regular visits to the dentist. While the term ‘dental examination’ sounds complex, it simply describes the procedure whereby a qualified equine dental veterinarian examines your horse’s teeth and gums, both visually and manually. Most often, a dental examination will take up to 45 minutes. However, if signs of dental disease are found or if your horse requires a specific dental procedure, such as a tooth extraction, the dental examination may take longer. During a dental examination, your horse maybe placed in a purpose-built crush, and may be given sedation or analgesics to reduce stress and eliminate pain. In addition, a qualified equine veterinarian will also use a powerfloat, hand tools and full mouth speculum (gag). The Qualified Equine Dental Veterinarian Remember, only a qualified equine dental veterinarian is able to prescribe medications and use the specialised equipment required for dental examinations. As such, it’s important when choosing the right dentist for your horse, that you know what to look for. There is much confusion around the term ‘equine dentist’, so we’ve taken the time to explain the key differences between a lay equine dentist and an equine dental veterinarian. Click here to read our article on how to choose the right professional for the job. At Exclusively Equine, our team of equine dental veterinarians have advanced training in both equine dental and veterinary health. This ensures your horse receives only the best health care and any health problems – inside and outside their mouth – are diagnosed early.  

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Horse Dentistry

Why do I need a veterinarian to do my horse’s teeth?

By far, the most important reason to choose your veterinarian to perform all dental examinations is because they’re a qualified professional. They possess the knowledge and skill to care for your horse’s oral health throughout every stage of life.  Equine dentistry is a growing field and many equine veterinarians are expanding into this area, along with qualified equine dentists. However, equine veterinarians have several important advantages. Here’s the top three… Veterinarians can sedate A qualified veterinarian is authorised to use sedation to keep your horse calm and comfortable during any routine dental procedure.  Non veterinarians cannot legally administer sedation. Veterinarians can prescribe  A qualified veterinarian is also authorised to prescribe analgesics (pain relief) during — and following — dental procedures that would otherwise be very painful, such as teeth extractions. Veterinarians can assess  A qualified veterinarian has extensive training in horse health, allowing them to diagnose and treat health conditions wider than your horse’s mouth. Your veterinarian can examine your horse, provide nutrition advice and assess lameness issues. In addition, equine veterinarians, including our team at Exclusively Equine Veterinary Services, have access to specialised equipment which can be used on-site or on your own property. At our equine clinic, we have: Portable crush Portable digital x-ray Portable ultrasound Portable endoscope The Dental Examination – What You Can Expect  Most dental examinations will take up to 45 minutes, unless your veterinarian encounters a more serious problem, such as a tooth that requires extraction. A qualified veterinarian will use a purpose-built crush and specialised equipment, including a full mouth speculum (gag) and powerfloat. This equipment allows them to manually and visually assess your horse’s teeth and gums, and remove any sharp enamel points with the powerfloat. Every horse under the age of 16 should receive a dental examination at least once a year. Senior horses or those with dental problems may require more frequent treatments.

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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.

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Wolf Teeth

What is the difference between canine and wolf teeth in horses?

As a horse owner you may be curious about the differences between canine teeth and wolf teeth in horses. While both types of teeth are located in the same general area of the horse’s mouth, they serve different purposes and have distinct characteristics that set them apart from each other. Canine teeth are typically found in male horses, although  mares may also have them. These teeth are located between the incisors (front teeth) and the premolars (bigger teeth at the back) and are typically longer and more pointed than other teeth in the horse’s mouth. In contrast, wolf teeth are small, peg-like teeth that are located just in front of the first premolars. They are usually found in both male and female horses, but not all horses have them. They can be found in both upper and lower jaws, although very uncommon in the lower jaw. Canine Teeth in Horses As a horse owner, I have always been interested in the different types of teeth that horses have and what their functions are. One type of tooth that is often talked about is the canine tooth. Canine teeth are often referred to as “tusks” and can grow up to 5cm long in some horses. The primary function of the canine tooth in horses is to fight and defend themselves against predators. In the wild, horses would use their tusks to fight off wolves, mountain lions, and other predators. However, in domesticated horses, the need for these teeth has diminished. Canine teeth can also be used to establish dominance within a herd. During play or fighting, horses may use their tusks to assert their dominance over other horses. This is why it is important to have a horse’s teeth checked regularly by a veterinarian to ensure that their tusks are not causing any harm to other horses or humans. Wolf Teeth in Horses As a horse owner, I have learned that wolf teeth are a common dental issue that many horses experience. Wolf teeth are small, pointed teeth that can be found in front of the first upper molars in a horse’s mouth. These teeth are often referred to as “vestigial” because they are remnants of the horse’s evolutionary past. Wolf teeth can cause discomfort for the horse, especially when a bit is placed in their mouth. This can lead to behavioral issues, such as head tossing and resistance to the bit. It is important to have a veterinarian or equine dentist remove the wolf teeth to alleviate any discomfort for the horse. It is important to note that not all horses have wolf teeth, and some may have them on only one side of their mouth. It is also possible for horses to have more than two wolf teeth. It is recommended to have a horse’s teeth checked regularly to ensure their dental health and comfort. It is important to have your horses mouth looked at before you put a bit in their mouth in case wolf teeth are there. The best age is between 12 months to 2 years of age. Wolf teeth often don’t appear until 18 months to 2 years of age and some horses can be even older for them to erupt. It is important for early removal as these teeth can fuse to your horses jaw the older they get- making them difficult and painful to remove. Differences Between Canine and Wolf Teeth Location Canine teeth are usually located between the incisors and the premolars in the horse’s mouth. They are often found in male horses, but some mares may also have them. In contrast, wolf teeth are located in front of the first upper molars and are present in both male and female horses. Appearance Canine teeth are usually longer and more pointed than wolf teeth. They also tend to be more curved and have a thicker root. Wolf teeth, on the other hand, are smaller and less pointed. They may be flat or slightly curved and have a shorter root. Function Canine teeth are typically used for fighting and biting, and are more prominent in stallions and geldings. In mares, they may not be as developed and may not serve any significant function. Wolf teeth, on the other hand, are vestigial teeth that no longer serve any purpose. They are often removed to prevent discomfort or pain when a bit is placed in the horse’s mouth. Overall, the main differences between canine and wolf teeth in horses are their location, appearance, and function. While canine teeth are more prominent in male horses and are used for biting and fighting, wolf teeth are smaller and vestigial, and may cause discomfort when a bit is placed in the horse’s mouth. Why Do Horses Have Canine and Wolf Teeth? Canine teeth, also known as “tusks,” are typically found in male horses and occasionally in mares. These teeth are located between the incisors and molars and are used primarily for fighting and defense. In the wild, stallions will often use their canine teeth to fend off predators or other males during breeding season. In domesticated horses, the presence of canine teeth is largely cosmetic and does not have a significant impact on their overall health or well-being. Wolf teeth, on the other hand, are small, peg-like teeth that are located just in front of the molars. These teeth are typically present in both male and female horses and may cause discomfort or pain if they interfere with the bit. For this reason, many horse owners choose to have their horse’s wolf teeth removed to prevent any potential issues while riding or training. It is best to have this done at an early age (<2 years old) to prevent any long term problems or complications, such as the teeth fusing to the jaw and potentially breaking during removal. Conclusion There are several key differences between canine teeth and wolf teeth in horses. Canine teeth are typically larger and more pointed than wolf teeth, and they are located

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My horse has wolf teeth. What should I do?

Wolf teeth are found in around 70% of horses, including both fillies and colts. Often, wolf teeth can remain inside your horse’s mouth without causing any issues. However, they may become painful if they come into contact with the bit – requiring professional extraction. Wolf teeth normally erupt between five and 12 months of age, but they don’t continue to erupt like other cheek teeth. In fact, in some horses, wolf teeth don’t emerge through the gums at all. These are called blind or unerupted wolf teeth. Regardless of whether the wolf tooth are erupted or not, their position in the mouth may influence your horse’s comfort. A wolf tooth that remains clear of the bit won’t result in pain. But, if their loca-tion does impact the bit or if you change bits, you may encounter pain avoidance behaviours. These include: • Head tossing • Head tilting • Rearing • Pulling hard • Tongue over the bit • Reluctance to take a lead Wolf Teeth Removal Many equine dental veterinarians recommend the removal of wolf teeth for several reasons. Not only does their extraction prevent possible pain, but it creates more space in your horse’s mouth to examine, clean and contour both upper and lower cheek teeth throughout their life. Removing wolf teeth is usually a simple procedure, and should only be performed by a qualified equine dental veterinarian who is licensed to use sedation and local anaesthetic for your horse’s comfort. The procedure may take anywhere from a few minutes to half an hour. Prior to their removal, your horse should be vaccinated against Tetanus. Small puncture wounds, including teeth extractions, are the ideal environment for the Tetanus bacteria – clostridium tetani – to thrive. To learn more about Tetanus vaccination, click here.

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How often should I get my horse’s teeth done?

Without routine dental care, your horse’s health, wellbeing and performance will suffer. Every horse should receive a dental examination at least once per year, but more frequent check-ups may be required for your horse.  Unlike humans, your horse’s teeth continue to erupt throughout their life. This unique physiology, combined with their innate chewing behaviours, can result in sharp enamel points that cause discomfort to the lips, cheeks and tongue. Dental Examination A dental examination by a qualified equine veterinarian at least once per year will help to prevent the development of dental diseases and reduce the formation of uneven teeth. Your horse should receive their first dental at nine months of age. For any horse above the age of 16, dental examinations should be increased to twice yearly. And, of course, if your horse has experienced dental problems at any age, they may require more frequent dental examinations. Signs of Dental Problems The importance of dental care cannot be underestimated. Without healthy dentition, your horse will be unable to chew, digest and properly absorb their feed, which can drastically reduce their condition – and be costly to your back pocket. However, dental problems can also lead to behavioural issues, long-term poor health and severe dental disease. There are several common signs that may indicate a dental problem, including: Dull coat, weight loss Head shaking, head tossing Spilling feed while eating Blood in the saliva, blood on the bit Excessive saliva production Poor appetite, reluctance to eat Bad breath, discharge from nostril Undigested feed in the manure Behavioural problems Head tilting during eating, eating slowly Facial swelling Colic Even if your horse has recently had a dental examination, these signs should alert you to the possibility of a dental problem. If any of these signs arise, we recommend you consult your equine veterinarian for further advice.

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How can I tell my horse’s age?

How Can I tell my horse’s age? As an equine Veterinarian, I often get asked how old are my horses? Knowing a horse’s age is not only important for record-keeping purposes, but it can also help determine their nutritional and healthcare needs. But how can you tell a horse’s age? One of the easiest ways to estimate a horse’s age is by looking at their teeth. Just like humans, horses’ teeth change as they age. By examining the teeth, you can determine the approximate age of the horse. However, it’s important to note that estimating a horse’s age based on their teeth is not an exact science. Other factors, such as genetics and diet, can affect the appearance of a horse’s teeth. That being said, examining a horse’s teeth is still a useful tool for estimating their age. Teeth as an Indicator of Age The Basic Teeth Structure of Horses The teeth of horses are an important indicator of their age. Horses have two sets of teeth in their lifetime, deciduous teeth, also known as milk teeth, and permanent teeth. Horses have a total of 36 to 44 teeth, depending on their breed and sex. The teeth of horses are divided into three categories; incisors, canines, and premolars/molars. Incisors are located in the front of the mouth and are used for biting and cutting grass. Canines are located between the incisors and molars and are used for fighting. Premolars and Molars are located at the back of the mouth and are used for grinding food. The Eruption Pattern of MILK Teeth (deciduous incisors) in Horses The eruption pattern of teeth in horses is a reliable indicator of age. Horses are born without teeth, and their deciduous teeth begin to erupt within a week of birth. The second set of incisors erupts at around six weeks of age, and the third set of incisors erupts at around six months of age. The permanent teeth begin to erupt at around one and a half years of age. The eruption pattern of incisor teeth in horses is predictable, and it can be used to determine the age of a horse accurately. The saying is six days, six weeks and six months for the milk teeth and that is from the centre out. Meaning the first two teeth to appear are at the front in the middle and then they erupt either side of these at six weeks and then another set erupt to the outside of them at six months. How to Determine Age Based on Teeth Determining the age of a horse based on its teeth requires knowledge of the eruption pattern and the wear of the teeth. The age of a horse can be estimated by examining the incisors, which are the most visible teeth. The size, shape, and wear of the incisors can be used to determine the age of the horse. For example, a two-year-old horse will have four permanent incisors, and they will be slightly larger than the deciduous incisors. A four-year-old horse will have a full set of permanent incisors, and the cups on the upper incisors will be worn down, but not completely in wear (this means they don’t quite touch the lower tooth when chewing). By the age of five, the cups on the upper incisors will have disappeared, and the teeth will begin to show signs of wear. In conclusion, the teeth of horses are an essential indicator of their age. The eruption pattern and wear of the teeth can be used to estimate the age of a horse accurately. By examining the incisors, it is possible to determine the age of a horse up to the age of ten years. Beyond the age of ten, it becomes more challenging to determine the age of a horse accurately based on its teeth alone. Over years of grazing, the concave surface of each tooth is worn flat. Here’s a quick overview of what you’ll find inside your horse’s mouth throughout its lifetime: One year old – your horse has six milk teeth incisors in each jaw Two year old – your horse has a complete set of milk teeth incisors, which are wearing Three year old – the two centre milk teeth incisors are replaced by adult teeth Four year old – the next two milk teeth incisors are replaced by adult teeth Five year old – the two corner milk teeth incisors are replaced by adult teeth Six year old – the corner incisors are wearing; there is a dental star present on the centre incisors Seven year old – a small hook appears on the top corner incisors Eight year old – the hook and black hollow centres on the teeth have disappeared Ageing a horse by their teeth then starts to become more difficult. 12 year old – the Galvayne’s groove appears on the top corner incisors and grows downwards 13 year old – another hook appears, which is similar to when your horse was seven years old 15 year old – the Galvayne’s groove has reached half way down the teeth 20 year old – the Galvayne’s groove has reached the bottom of the teeth 25 year old – the Galvayne’s groove has disappeared from the top half of the teeth Physical Characteristics as an Indicator of Age Body Shape and Size As a horse ages, its body shape and size change. Young horses tend to have a more angular and slender appearance, while older horses tend to have a more rounded and thicker appearance. As horses age, they also tend to lose muscle tone and develop a more sagging appearance. Muscle Tone and Development The muscle tone and development of a horse can also be a good indicator of its age. Young horses tend to have more defined and developed muscles, while older horses tend to lose muscle mass and have a more flabby appearance. Additionally, older horses may have more prominent bones due to the loss of muscle mass. Coat Condition

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My horse keeps dropping food. What does that mean?

Dropping food is one of the most common signs your horse is due for a dental. Over time, uneven wear causes sharp enamel points on your horse’s teeth, which can lead to pain and discomfort when chewing. If your horse is dropping food, a dental check is best.  Every horse requires a dental examination at least once a year. Foals should receive their first dental at nine months of age, with yearly dentals until they are 16. Senior horses, aged 16 and over, should receive dental check-ups at least twice yearly. Due to the horse’s unique anatomy, their teeth continue to erupt throughout their life. Without regular maintenance, uneven wear, dental disease and digestive problems can result, which affect your horse’s health, wellbeing and, ultimately, their performance. If your horse is dropping feed, it’s highly likely they are experiencing some pain or discomfort while chewing. To alleviate this, they may adopt an unusual chewing pattern and, thus, drop food. Dropping food is one of the most common signs that your horse needs a dental examination. However, you may also notice some of the other common indicators which suggest dental disease, including: 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 A dental examination by a qualified veterinarian is the only way to identify dental problems. Using specialised equipment, sedatives and analgesics, a veterinarian will be able to examine and treat every tooth, and diagnose disease.

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