Dental Care for Your Horse

— Written By

Most modern horses consume diets of grain and hay, which limits their grazing time. However, their teeth were made for grazing, so dental issues are common in the equine industry. Luckily, with a good vet and dental technician, most of these can be corrected. The health and performance of your horse may be affected by the problems going on with their teeth. Some health issues may include: malnutrition, cheek and tongue ulceration, chronic colic or choke. Performance issues could be head-tossing, rearing, overflexing, and resistance to being bridled (just to name a few).

Now for the dental exam itself…what should you expect?

1. Questions: the dentist/vet should ask you about your horse’s health and performance history. Age, breed, use, eating habits (and any changes), performance (and any changes), etc. are common questions

2. Sedative: many dentists use a mild or moderate sedative when working on horses, much like several human dentists do. This keeps the horse quiet so that a thorough job can be done and lessens the anxiety of the animal.

3. Facial exam: your dentist should exam first-time patients for any swelling, misalignment, structural issues, and check incisors for excessive length and sharp edges.

4. Mouth exam: the mouth needs to be examined before any work done to check for signs of ulceration, bruising, cuts, infection, etc.

5. Floating: rasp down canine teeth, sharp edges on incisors corrected, float molars and balance incisors, etc.
This was just the tip of the iceberg for equine dentistry. Check out the following links for more information about equine dentistry and senior teeth care.

Stefani Garbacik is a Livestock and Forage Extension Agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension. If you need any further assistance, please contact her at or (919) 731-1525.