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Care Guide

About Care Guides[x] These care guides are written to help your clients understand common conditions, tests, and procedures, as well as to provide basic information about pet care. They are based on the most up-to-date, documented information, recommendations, and guidelines available in the United States at the time of writing. Pharmaceutical product licensing, availability, and usage recommendations are based on US product information. Use the Download Handout button to generate a PDF for printing or e-mailing to your clients.

Floating Equine Teeth

    • Your horse’s teeth grow and wear down continuously throughout life.
    • Sharp points, edges, and hooks in your horse’s mouth must be trimmed (floated) regularly to ensure proper chewing, maintain a good bit seat, and avoid oral discomfort.
    • Only a licensed veterinarian should administer a sedative or analgesic to your horse, diagnose dental problems, and develop and oversee a treatment plan.

    The Basics

    Your horse’s teeth grow and wear down continuously throughout life. Because a horse’s upper jaw is wider than the lower jaw, chewing wears a horse’s teeth on a slant. The outer edges of the top teeth can become very sharp and cut into the cheeks. The inner edges of the bottom teeth can also become very sharp and cut into the tongue. Hooks can form on the front and back of the rows of molar teeth, preventing your horse from closing his or her mouth. Sharp points, edges, and hooks in your horse’s mouth must be trimmed (floated) regularly to ensure proper chewing, maintain a good bit seat, and avoid oral discomfort. (Oral discomfort is a major cause of head shaking, bit resistance, and unwanted behavior in horses.) An instrument called a float is used to file your horse’s teeth.

    Equine Dental Examinations and Floating

    Many equine veterinarians recommend twice-yearly dental examinations until a horse is 5 years of age. Between 5 and 15 years of age, yearly dental examinations are usually recommended. After 15 years of age, twice-yearly dental examinations are recommended. Depending on your horse’s temperament, the veterinarian may need to use a mild sedative to perform a dental examination on your horse. A device called a speculum may be used to hold your horse’s mouth open. The veterinarian will check your horse’s mouth for sharp points, edges, and hooks and float them with a file or trim them with a nipper. The veterinarian may recommend radiography (x-rays) or ultrasonography to help diagnose a dental problem.

    Equine Dental Care Providers

    The laws governing equine veterinary care and dentistry are complex and vary by state. It is in your horse’s and your best interest to know the rules regarding who can provide equine dental care in your area. The use of nonveterinarian “equine dentists” is common but may involve medical and legal risks. Only a licensed veterinarian should administer a sedative or analgesic to your horse, diagnose dental problems, and develop and oversee a treatment plan. Veterinarians who don’t provide comprehensive equine dental care should be able to refer you to a veterinary colleague who does.