Dental Abnormalities

The range of dental abnormalities that can occur within the horses’ mouth is vast. Routine checks should take place every 6-12 months, so if your horse hasn’t had dental treatment in the past year a check-up would be highly recommended. Furthermore, if your horse is exhibiting any of the following symptoms, dental treatment may be required:

When eating…

  • Change in eating habits
  • Loss of appetite
  • Tilting the head to one side
  • Quidding (dropping partially chewed boluses of food)
  • Excessive salivation
  • Dunking hay in water before eating
  • Bad breath
  • Choking

When riding…

  • Bad attitude
  • Change in performance
  • Evasion or resistance to the bit on one rein or both
  • Excessive salivation
  • Head tossing or shaking
  • Reluctance to go forward or work in an outline
  • Rearing

Other signs…

  • Change/loss of condition
  • Discharge from the eyes or nose
  • Facial swelling
  • Long fibres in droppings
  • Generally down or depressed

Outlined below are a few of the most common dental abnormalities, how they occur and their tell-tale signs. For further information on dental abnormalities, click here.

 

Sharp Edges

Equine teeth have foldings of enamel throughout their structure which gives them extra strength. Along the buccal (cheek) edges of the upper teeth and the lingual (tongue) edges of the lower teeth, these foldings create enamel points. Over time, these points can become very large and sharp and can cause ulceration to the soft tissues within the oral cavity, so need to be reduced regularly through routine floating (rasping). An affected horse may tilt its head when eating, drop partially chewed boluses of food (known as quidding) or exhibit signs of discomfort when ridden such as head shaking and bit evasion.

 

Hooks

The development of hooks occurs on the rostral (front) aspect of the first upper cheek teeth and the caudal (back) aspect of the last lower cheek teeth. They are a result of incomplete occlusal contact between the upper and lower arcades (rows of teeth) or a disparity in the length of the arcades. Because horses’ teeth continually erupt and are only worn down by opposing teeth, the parts of the teeth that are not in contact with an opposing tooth will carry on erupting into the space, exacerbating the hooks. Rostral and caudal hooks can inhibit the natural anterior/posterior movement of the lower jaw and can cause discomfort when eating. When riding, the soft tissues within the oral cavity can be pinched between the bit and rostral hooks, causing pain, ulceration and even laceration. This abnormality can manifest itself in different ways, from head shaking, evasion of the bit or rearing when ridden to quidding, abnormal chewing action and weight loss. However, it can be easily corrected through floating.

 

Ramps

This abnormality is an exaggeration of the upward slope of the lower cheek teeth. Like hooks, ramps can reduce the natural anterior/posterior movement of the lower jaw causing discomfort and difficulty eating. Correction of this problem requires careful evaluation of the affected individual and possibly multiple reduction treatments over a set period of time, dependent on the horses’ age.

 

Excessive Transverse Ridges (ETR)

Transverse ridges are linear elevations that run across the occlusal surface of the cheek teeth. They are normal anatomical structures that help with the grinding of food. However, some of these ridges may be more pronounced than others and can hinder the temporal mandibular joint, affecting anterior/posterior movement of the lower jaw and lateral excursion (side to side movement). Also, if the excessive transverse ridge is opposing a diastema (gap between adjacent teeth), it can force food into the gap or even hyper-erupt into the space forcing the teeth further apart. Reduction of ETR to the individual’s normal level is straightforward and can be achieved by routine floating.