The horse's incisor teeth are designed to clip and tear grass
close to the ground, and as horses' teeth grow 2-3mm per year, the
associated wear enables an estimation of the horse's age to be
made from the state of its incisor teeth.
The incisor teeth should meet so that the front surface of upper
and lower teeth are approved. Viewed from the front the dental
arcade should also be a straight line without any dips or waves
The cheek teeth are responsible for grinding ingested material,
and the complex structure of the tooth results in a ridged surface
that is an extremely efficient arrangement for grinding fibrous
material. The bottom jaw is narrower than the top jaw and the
grinding motion is of a circular nature, there often being several
rotations in one direction, followed by rotation in the other
direction. This leads to a natural development of angulation on
the horse's teeth so that the upper teeth become longer on the
outside and the lower teeth longer on the inside. This leads to
the development of sharp edges, which in nature is fine, but the
action of the bit and the bridle is often to push the gum or
tongue against the sharp edges of these teeth, resulting in
considerable injury and consequent discomfort. Should the
angulation in the cheek teeth become excessive, the horse is
unable to grind laterally.
This can easily be checked by taking hold of the upper jaw in one
hand and moving the lower jaw sideways in either direction. The
normal horse should be able to move the lower jaw 1.5 incisor
teeth laterally before the incisors are forced apart. If listening
carefully whilst performing this movement rapidly, any excessive
hooks on the molar teeth can be heard and the sudden resistance to
movement can be felt.
The gap between the incisor teeth and the cheek teeth can easily
and safely be seen and felt. It should be smooth, blemish and pain
free on both upper and lower jaws. Eruption of the canine teeth,
or tushes, can cause pain and bit resentment. These are easily
felt by running the thumb backwards and forwards along the jaws.
A great deal more care and equipment is required to examine the
cheek teeth properly. Do not attempt to feel the tables of the
cheek teeth without some method of keeping the horse's mouth open.
You will know why once you have been bitten - so leave it to us!
Do not leave examination till problems develop. Our vets will
happily show you how to examine your horse's mouth. We have a full
range of manual floats, gags, light sources and motorised burrs
for dealing with any abnormalities. We recommend that the most
convenient time to do this is at the time of annual vaccination.
By maintaining relatively simple straightforward regular floating
of the teeth, the development of abnormalities will be minimised
and the cost consequently greatly reduced.