Long In The Tooth-Why Dental Care For Your Horse Matters

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Preventive dental care is important for horses of all ages; however, when your horse is approaching the golden years, it may be time to reassess dental routines. The need for extra dental monitoring with an aging horse comes from the way equine teeth are designed.

Understanding Growth in Horse Teeth

Unlike human teeth that come in and then stop growing out, a horse’s teeth are always growing to compensate for everyday wear from chewing. There is about four inches of tooth in the jaw, so the teeth continue growing for the majority of the horse’s life. As teeth are growing, they can turn and change their angle, often causing uneven wear that should be corrected with floating (also called filing).

As horses get older, the amount of tooth available to grow out decreases, and eventually there is no tooth left to grow. This means teeth require extra attention and more frequent floating.

What to Expect after Age 20

After the age of 20, your horse should have its teeth checked every six months and floated when indicated. Some horses will need to start more frequent dental care before the age of 20.

As horses reach 30, they may lose some of their teeth. Occasionally, an older horse will lose all of their teeth. This doesn’t prevent them from eating though, as many senior horses enjoy wet food that doesn’t require much chewing. Monitoring your horse as he eats is recommended during his senior years because when teeth aren’t healthy, neither is your horse!

Signs of Teeth Issues in Horses

Common signs of tooth issues for any age horse include:

  • Dropping feed
  • Weight loss
  • Mouth odor
  • One-sided odorous nasal discharge
  • Suddenly not eating hay or grain
  • Fussy with the bridle
  • Eating with its head tilted
  • Has soft or hard asymmetric swellings
  • Dropping clumps of hay (quidding)
  • Salivating more than normal

These are the most common signs of an unhappy mouth, and are the easiest signs for an owner to recognize. If you notice your horse is exhibiting any of these behaviors, it is recommended that you schedule an appointment for a vet to come and check their teeth.

Schedule Your Dental Care with Carolina Equine

Carolina Equine Hospital offers complete dental care for horses of all ages. Get more information or schedule an appointment with our easy online form. You can also call 336-349-4080 or email