Kathryn Woolley
Qualified Equine Dental Technician

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Older horses can have excessively worn teeth, which have just simply expired with age (the entire reserve crown has been utilised). Often these teeth become loose and fall out naturally. Age related problems can also occur when young horses aged between 2-5 are shedding their deciduous (baby) teeth. These teeth can be retained and consequently cause infection, furthermore abnormal development of the permanent tooth underneath can occur.
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Selective breeding for the most attractive traits in competition horses has led to a number of congenital abnormalities becoming present in the horse's oral cavity. Breeders rarely take into consideration the conformation of the mouth when deciding to breed from a horse. These abnormalities include parrot mouth (brachynathia), sow mouth (prognathia) and wry nose (Campylorrhinus lateralis) see pictures below. These deformities can lead to eating difficulties and therefore it is not recommended to breed from them.

Parrot Mouth

(Baker and Easley, 2005)

Sow Mouth

Wry Nose

The most common dental problem is the formation of sharp enamel points on the buccal aspect of the maxillary (upper) molar arcades and the lingual aspect of the mandibular (lower) molar arcades. This is usually present in all horses if not treated every 6 - 9 months.

Sharp enamel points on the buccal aspect of the upper molar arcade

Damage to the side of the cheeks from sharp enamel points

Other common problems include:

  • Focal overgrowths - encompassing ramps, hooks, beaks, steps, accentuated transverse ridges (ATR), wave complexes and shear arcades
  • Displacement of teeth
  • Diastmata
  • Incorrect incisor and molar table angles
  • Wolf tooth discomfort
  • Loose caps
  • Periodontal gum disease
  • Missing teeth
Signs and Symptoms

  • Difficult to bridle
  • Head position or contact instability whilst riding
  • Heavy contact or leaning when riding
  • Difficulty turning one way when riding
  • Reluctance to go forward into the hand when ridden
  • Holding the bit between teeth and lacking control
  • Rearing or bolting
  • Failure to gain condition
  • Weight loss
  • Long fibres found in droppings
  • Bad breath from mouth or nostrils
  • Unable to move lower jaw sideways
  • Sores at corner or within mouth
  • Quidding - dropping partly chewed food
  • Bumps on the lower jaw or enlargements elsewhere on the head
  • Discharge from the eyes or nose
  • Aged between 2 and 5 years old - shedding caps
  • Older than 20 years - he may have loose or expired teeth causing pain and leading to slow eating and weight loss
  • Teeth sensitive to the touch when palpating from the outer cheek area
© 2017 All content copyright. Kathryn Woolley KT Equine Dentistry