Good oral hygiene is essential for your horses health, do not leave examinations until problems develop. Here at Battle Flatts 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.
Your horse’s teeth
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 formed.
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.
Checking your horse’s teeth
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!
If you have any concerns about your horse’s teeth please contact us and we can arrange a time an appointment.