Horses are much tougher on their teeth than we are. Fortunately for them their teeth keep growing until they are 27 to 30 years old! It's a good thing too since the tough forage that they eat wears their teeth down. If their teeth did not keep growing they'd be down to gums in no time.
It is important that we feed our horses good quality hay. Good quality hays mean horses don't need to eat as much, so their teeth do not wear down as quickly. The simple act of grazing for a horse changes a horses jaw position, which helps prevent their teeth from wearing unevenly.
Teeth with sharp edges are painful and dangerous. They can become so sharp that they cut the horse's cheek when compressed by a bridle or halter, and cause so much pain that a horse has trouble eating. A easy sign that your horse is dealing with a sharp painful tooth is 'quidding', when your horse appears chomp his food with his mouth open. Quidding can cause serious problems not only is it a sign your horse is in pain, but the food they do manage to eat is often unchewed and indigestible. If your horse is 'quidding' he can lose weight quickly, become malnourished or get colic. If you believe your horse is 'quidding' seek a vet's help immediately.
It is important to check your horse's teeth regularly. A horse dentist should see your horse at least once a year. The equine dentists 'floats' or files down the horse's teeth to restore a good chewing surface and remove any sharp and painful edges or hooks. If your horse has poor head conformation such as a bad over or under bite, you may need to call out the dentist more often, as a badly aligned jaw is more likely to wear unevenly.
A horse dentist can also take care of other dental problems that may be affecting your horse's condition, comfort, or performance. Impacted baby teeth ('milk' teeth) that haven't been pushed out by the time the horse is of riding age can usually be removed easily, and this helps to prevent infections, pain, and let the adult teeth come through straight. These 'baby teeth' aren't all really separate teeth, but some are rounded enamel caps that sit above the adult teeth but they can easily become stuck in the horse's gum. It's a good idea to start your horse's dental routine by the time it is a yearling.
Proper care for your horse's teeth is important to their overall health. So here are a few ways to protect your horse's teeth; Horse's teeth can decay, so feeding high sugar feeds and treats should be limited or avoided. If you must give your horse a treat, choose sugar free mints or carrots. Many dental problems come from injuries so any time you see blood in your horse's mouth check it out immediately. Often you can find a mouth injury because the horse has been uncomfortable and has started to chew, so you may see signs of bleeding on a fence or a stable door first. If you don't feel safe investigating your horse's mouth yourself, call your vet. Even knocking the bit against the horse's teeth can cause cracks that lead to sores and bleeding, so handle your horse's mouth carefully. Whatever is causing bleeding in a horse's mouth must be given time to heal before you use a bit again.
Your horse's dental care is vital to his overall health. There is no Tooth Fairy in the horse world so take good care of them!
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