Horses should have their first check-up at 1.5 to 2.5 years of age, then annually from then until they are in their 20s. Then our older horses may need their teeth checked more frequently so that they can get the most value from their food, and in all age ranges more frequent check-ups are warranted in any of the following situations:
- Chomping the bit, difficulty taking and/or dropping the bit
- Twisting his head in the bridle
- Hangs on one rein
- Difficulty turning one direction
- Ulcers on the inside of the cheeks
- Dropping grain/feed, hay ‘balls’ found on the ground
- Front teeth do not line up – uneven incisors (affects the jaw alignment too!) This could also mean malocclusions (jaw and teeth not lining up)
- Lumps seen from outside on cheeks
- Behavior changes
- Weight loss
- Smelly mouth
It is important to monitor a young horse’s teeth and particularly check for wolf teeth and caps (the baby teeth that fall out/get pushed out by adult teeth). Caps can get jammed between other teeth rather than fall out on their own.
In general, most horses need at least an annual check-up/floating. However, horses in regular work may need a check-up every six to nine months to avoid ulcerated cheeks and/or tooth issues. Sharp points, uneven edges, etc. may be more problematic for a horse that wears a bridle, for instance. More frequent check-ups may also be warranted for horses with dental issues. Although cavities are uncommon in horses, they do occur. More common dental ailments are painful points, uneven arcades (tops and bottom rows of teeth), but a Periapical infection, or infection at the root of the tooth, can also occur. Also, a cracked tooth may go undetected without a dental exam.
It is so easy to skip having your horse’s teeth checked but it is such an important part of their health! We ask so much of our horses and their mouth is vital – do the right thing! Get your horse’s teeth checked!