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Equine Dentistry

Our veterinary team provides comprehensive dental care to horses in Wichita and across South-Central Kansas. Routine dental care helps your horses stay healthy and perform their best.

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Restoring & Maintaining Your Horses Dental Health

Whether you have a young horse, sport horse, or senior pasture pet, routine dental care is an important factor in their overall health and well-being. A healthy mouth is not only essential for nutrition but also for pain-free performance.

The diet of domestic horses is very different from the tough, fibrous material that their ancestors used to eat. Because of this, their teeth are no longer being worn down effectively while they eat, and since their teeth continually erupt throughout their life, your horse can develop uncomfortable overgrowths.

At Equine Surgery & Medicine, we can evaluate, diagnose, and treat dental problems at our advanced facility or directly at your farm. We suggest yearly dental check-ups to catch any issues before they become bigger problems. These visits involve a comprehensive examination of their oral health and, if needed, the smoothing of their teeth (known as tooth floating).

Your horse's safety and comfort are our top priorities. We use sedation and full-mouth speculums during oral exams to put the least amount of stress on your horse.

Equine Dentistry, Wichita Vets

Why Teeth Floating is Important for Your Equine Partner

The continual eruption of your horse's teeth, in combination with their chewing motion, can result in the development of sharp enamel points on the teeth. Removing these points involves a process called 'floating'. This is a routine procedure that equine dentists perform on your horse’s teeth with a rasp.

If your horse doesn’t have its teeth floated, the sharp points on the teeth will grow larger. This can lead to wounds and ulcers on the inside of the horse’s mouth. Your horse will eventually have difficulty eating and will show signs of discomfort when riding with a bit.

Equine Dental Care & Exams

Having your horse's teeth checked annually by a veterinarian is an important part of horse care. Horses can develop dental issues at any time, but horses that are growing, older than 20, or prone to dental issues may require more frequent visits.

Take a look through the information below to get a better understanding of what is involved in equine dental care.

  • Symptoms

    If you notice your horse is showing any of the following symptoms, it's time for a dental appointment.

    • Dropping feed from the mouth while chewing
    • Awkward chewing motions while eating
    • Trouble placing a bit in the horses’ mouth
    • Difficulty riding when the horse has a bit in
    • Weight loss
    • Nasal discharge
    • Poorly digested food in manure
    • Food packing within cheeks
    Contact Us to Book a Dental Checkup
  • Assessment

    An equine dental appointment will often start with a complete review of your horse's history with you or your stable manager. This will help our veterinarians gauge what they may expect to find in your horse’s mouth. Typically, the veterinarian will ask if certain symptoms of dental problems have been present in your horse’s behavior.

    Your horse will be sedated for the procedure as it allows for a safer and more thorough examination of the mouth. It can also alleviate some of the stress of the procedure that your horse might feel.

    Once your veterinarian has opened your horse's mouth with a full-mouth speculum, they will be to perform a comprehensive exam of the mouth, including the gums, mucosa, teeth, and tongue.

  • Treatment

    Once your vet has had a chance to examine your horse's mouth, they will discuss treatment options for any extensive issues.

    In most cases, a horse's teeth can become worn in a way that leads to sharp edges, so their dentist will have to float the teeth. This uses power or hand tools to grind the teeth in certain spots to either adjust the alignment of the mouth or to smooth out sharp or protruding points in the teeth.

  • Prevention

    You can keep your horse's teeth and mouth as healthy as possible by providing them with a diet that helps keep the teeth from developing sharp points.

    Make sure that at least half of their diet consists of good quality long fiber. If you have an older horse, they may require special attention with their diet, especially if they are missing teeth and struggle to chew long fiber. Fiber replacements offer a good solution in such cases but speak to your vet about any concerns you may have.

FAQs About Equine Dental Care

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions from our clients about horse dental care:

  • How can I tell if my horse has oral health issues?

    Behavior can be a huge indication of oral health problems. If your horse is experiencing dental problems they can have bad breath, drop food, or have less of an appetite. They can also pack food in their cheeks, start to lose weight, or fight the bit during training.

    Read more about symptoms under the Equine Dental Care & Exams section on this page. 

  • How can I keep an eye on my horse's dental health?

    Regularly handle your horse's head and mouth to make sure they are comfortable having their mouth examined. If you own a foal, examine the foal's teeth as soon as possible. You can check for baby teeth called caps, which are pushed out by the growing permanent teeth by the time the horse is about two years old.

    With an adult horse, open the mouth and check for uneven wear on teeth resulting in points or sharp edges that will keep the horse from properly chewing feed. 

    Also, note any teeth that are beginning to protrude excessively or cause mal-alignment or malocclusion. Note any changes in eating habits, loss of weight, bad breath, dropping half-eaten food, holding the head at a strange angle, bolting, or head tossing when being bridled or ridden. Any of these conditions may be caused by dental problems.

  • What are some common dental health problems in horses?

    Some commonly seen dental issues for horses include:

    • Abnormal wear with sharp enamel edges on both the lower and upper cheek teeth. If pronounced, this can cause painful ulcers and erosions of the soft tissues of the cheek or tongue
    • Overgrowth is either secondary to a misaligned jaw (parrot mouth) or as a result of a missing tooth
    • Fractured, displaced, loose, or missing cheek teeth
    • Diastema (gaps between the teeth where food collects) that causes gum disease
    • Tooth decay
    • Tooth root abscess
    • Retained deciduous (baby) teeth
    • Blind (unerupted) or abnormally large or displaced wolf teeth
    • Abnormalities of the incisors
  • Why do horses need yearly dental exams?

    Proper dental care has many benefits for both horse and owner. Your horse will be more comfortable, will get more nutritional benefits from their feed, will perform better, and can even live a longer healthier life. You will save time and money on veterinary care because your horse will be healthier and more willing to work.

    When a horse is young, its teeth are still soft and gaining calcium so they can become sharp quickly. Dental care is extremely vital before starting your horse in training.

    Throughout the horse's adult life, teeth will naturally wear down both normally and abnormally. The result can be either pain or the premature wear of the teeth. The discomfort that can result from even regular wear patterns makes annual dental exams important for the horse.

    In addition, the development of wolf teeth and other dental anomalies can cause a young horse great discomfort resulting in fighting the bit and making training more difficult. Any pressure on the horse's cheeks is capable of rubbing on these teeth which tend to be pointed.

    Senior horses are at increased risk for developing periodontal disease. This painful disease must be diagnosed early for successful treatment.

  • How often do horses need their teeth floated?

    The answer to this question will differ depending on your horse's age. Here is what we recommend:

    • Foals: Check teeth periodically for congenital abnormalities
    • Yearlings: At their first complete dental exam
    • 2-5 Years Old: Every six months
    • 6-17 Years Old: At least once per year
    • 17-20 Years Old: Annually
    • 20+ Years Old: Annual exams, floating might not be possible
  • What long-term problems can poor oral health potentially cause in my horse?

    Serious dental conditions can develop, such as infections and abscesses, extremely long hooks or overgrowths on the cheek teeth, and lost or fractured teeth. These conditions may require advanced dental care or extraction by a qualified veterinarian.

    Your equine veterinarian can recommend the best treatment or refer your horse to a dental specialist if needed.

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Equine Surgery & Medicine is accepting new patients. Our team of veterinarians has been providing expert equine care since 1975. Get in touch with us today to book an appointment.

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