Why have my horses teeth examined?
All horses regardless of breed, gender, diet or workload need some level of dental care. It is safer, less expensive and most importantly kinder to your horse if routine dental work is carried out rather than waiting until a problem occurs. As veterinary surgeons we see many equines with dental problems. Horses teeth grow constantly throughout their life, and because of this once a fault develops, the fault is easily exaggerated, unless remedial action is taken.
What does floating mean?
Floating is the act of removing sharp points from the horses teeth. It is often referred to as rasping. Typically these sharp points form on the outer aspect of the back (cheek) teeth, and on the inside aspect of the lower case cheek teeth. Left unchecked these points can rub against the inside of the cheeks, leading to painful ulcer formation. This fault eventually limits the ability of the horse to grind food, and the teeth develop an irregular wear pattern. The problem is worsened by the continued growth of the teeth. Floating can be used to help correct this problem, although regular attention is needed.Floating can be carried out with hand tools or specially designed power tools.
Do donkeys and mules need their teeth floated too?
Yes, Just like horses they need regular dental care.
How often should my horse have its teeth examined?
For most animals twice yearly checks are adequate. Many animals are checked annually, often in tandem with vaccination. If problems are noted, such as ulceration or irregular wear patterns or large sharp points on the teeth, we would recommend 6 monthly checks. Sometimes we find horses with severe dental issues, and a plan may be made to recheck after 3-4 months. There is a physical limit to how much tooth can be rasped off in one session. Excessive rasping could lead to exposure of the dental pulp. We would recommend you arrange a dental check with one of our vets who will be able to tailor a plan to suit your horses individual dental requirements.
Does my horse need to be sedated to have its teeth floated?
It is much safer for horse, vet and handler to sedate a horse to examine its mouth. It allows the vet to examine the horses teeth and mouth thoroughly with a gag and cause less distress to the horse. A careful exam often involves flushing of the mouth to remove food debris, and examination with dental mirrors. Gaps between the teeth and areas where the gums have receded are checked, and flushed or cleaned out using dental picks and high pressure water jetting. Only a veterinary examination under sedation can allow this work to be performed adequately. Some horses can be examined and floated without sedation, but for the reasons outlined we would not usually advise it.
What is a diastema?
A diastema is a gap between two teeth. They are often found in older horses and ponies. They cause food to become trapped, and this process can set up dental infections. Often they need to be burred to widen them. This is done with a motorised burr. The idea is to make it harder for food to become stuck by making the gap wider. There is a trade-off, as this kind of burring can weaken a tooth. These animals absolutely need regular dental care, and dental infection is a constant threat.
What are bit seats and why are they useful?
A bit seat is created by rounding off the front of the first set of cheek teeth where the bit sits. When we ask the horse for a contact, to halt or turn the bit seat ensures the horse cannot chew on the bit or get its cheek caught between the bit and its teeth. This allows the rider more control over the horse. They are not necessary in all animals, but if a problem is perceived, then a bit seat can be considered.