The Basics of Horse Teeth
Horses, like the vast majority of mammals, have two sets of teeth. The first set of teeth is present when they are born or come in within a few weeks of birth. These are called baby or milk teeth. These teeth fall out when the horse is between two and five years old and the adult teeth come in. A horse's adult teeth are different from human's because, like many grazing mammals, the teeth continue to grow until they are 25 or 30 years old.
Horses have canines, incisors, molars and a type of tooth called a wolf tooth. Wolf teeth are typically removed when the horse is two or three years old because they can cause problems with the horse accepting the bit. This is normally a horse's first encounter with equine dentistry.
Horse Tooth Maintenance
A horse's teeth should be cleaned regularly to keep them in the best condition. This is something that horse owners may be able to do, but many horses need to be sedated to accomplish any real cleaning so it is commonly a task that should be done by the equine dentist or veterinarian. Horse owners who attempt to perform dental work on their equines take the risk of causing pain or damage to the horse's mouth. Other common procedures include having a horse's teeth floated. Floating teeth is the term used to describe the process where points and rough edges that have formed on a horse's teeth due to use are filed down to create a flat chewing surface. When a horse is having problems chewing, has problems gaining weight or seems to be suffering from a lack of nutrition despite a good diet, there is a good chance that tooth problems are preventing it from chewing properly and it needs to have its teeth floated.
Equine teeth should be checked for problems at least once a year, prices will vary depending on what part of the country you are located in, how much work needs to be done and whether your horse cooperates for the dental work or has to be sedated. Prices can also change depending on who is performing the dental work.
In the past, most of a horse's dental work was done by the veterinarian. Basic procedures such as pulling wolf teeth and floating the teeth are still done by veterinarians in many areas.
However, there is a growing segment of equine dentistry specialists. These are individuals who have gone to school specifically to learn about horse teeth. Equine dentists typically have more sophisticated tools and equipment than a standard veterinarian. If a horse is having dental problems, it is advisable to contact a dental specialist to treat it. Equine dentists have specialized dental equipment that they use to care for horses' teeth.