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Dental Care

Routine check-ups

Regular dental check-ups and floating are an essential requirement for all horses and ponies, regardless of age and use.  Depending on the age and performance requirements of the horse, as well as any ongoing dental issues, check-ups and treatment may be required annually, 6 monthly or occasionally 3 monthly. 

Most horses will require an annual oral examination and floating for effective preventative maintenance.  The end result of this is a healthier, and happier equine partner!



Horses less than 4 years old and over 18 years old should have check-ups every 6 months.  This is because of the risk of retained caps and eruption malalignment in young horses, and to ensure a level grinding surface for older horses with missing and malaligned teeth so they are able to maintain weight.

Every horse should receive a full dental check-up and float before it is mouthed. Placing a bit in the mouth will squeeze the cheek onto the sharp points of the teeth and cause ulcerations.  By ensuring this does not occur, breaking in will be a much more positive experience for the horse and handler.

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Common Dental Issues

Unlike humans, horses have teeth that constantly erupt throughout their life.  This means that they develop sharp enamel points on their cheek teeth which can cause laceration and ulceration of the cheeks and tongue.  Occasionally these teeth can also erupt and wear down in an abnormal manner, resulting in pain and behavioural changes.  Hooks can form on teeth, and are usually found on the last molars at the back of the mouth. These hooks can become long enough to protrude directly into the opposite gum when the horse closes its mouth.

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Mouth ulcers on cheek

A large number of horses have wolf teeth that erupt between 5-12 months old.  These teeth often sit where the bit also does in the mouth and can cause great discomfort to the horse.  Sometimes these wolf teeth are ‘blind’ and sit under the gums.  This is one major reason why your horse needs a thorough dental examination and floating prior to breaking in.

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Wolf teeth


Wolf teeth

Another common problem in horses is tooth root abscesses.  See case studies of Lizard and Sage for more information on this condition.

Horses also suffer from dental caries, as do people from access to a sugary diet!  These caries can become severe if untreated over time and result in death of the tooth.  Preventative action in terms of dietary changes and treatment with a mouthwash “Hexarinse” 2-3 times per week can help to prevent unnecessary tooth extractions. 

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Dental Caries

What is done during a routine dental examination?

All dentistry examinations and floating performed by Illawarra Equine Veterinarians are performed under standing sedation with analgesia for pain relief when required.  A powerful light and use of a mouth gag along with a mirror allows examination of all surfaces of teeth and the mouth to highlight any abnormalities.  Floating is performed safely with a power float.  The grinding surface of the power float is non-cutting to the soft tissue surfaces in the mouth and enables a quicker dental experience for the horse.

How to know if your horse needs a dental check-up ?

  • You notice your horse dropping feed or looking uncomfortable whilst chewing.

  • Your horse has lost weight recently despite continuing feed as usual.

  • Your horse is requiring large amounts of hard feed to maintain weight.

  • Your horse has shown recent behavioural issues when ridden/bridled, including rearing, bucking, reluctance to turn a particular direction or grabbing the bit.

  • You have noticed any swellings on the face or jaw.

Group dentals

From March to May 2020, we offer clients a dental check-up at a reduced rate when 3 or more horses are seen in the one location.  Click the Group Dental button for more details. 

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