No one likes going to the dentist. From the pain of drilling to the fear of being scolded for not flossing, most people put off the visit for as long as they can. However, everyone understands this visit is crucial to overall health. Similarly, a horse should be taken to your veterinarian for a dental checkup and float once a year as part of a routine well care program. By performing an equine dentistry exam every year, you keep small problems from escalating into larger, more costly problems while heading off any potential performance issues.
While dental visits are important for both humans and horses, and though we suffer from many of the same problems (plaque/tarter, abscess teeth, overbite or under bite), there is one distinct difference. A horse’s teeth will continue to erupt throughout its lifetime. A common misconception is that they continually grow; they do not. The teeth are always in the gum (4”-5” roots) and continue to emerge or “erupt” throughout the horse’s lifetime. Some horses will outlive their teeth, which offers a new set of challenges.
So why is this important to know? A horse chews in two motions: up-and-down and side-to-side. This motion can cause teeth to wear unevenly. As the teeth continue to erupt the areas of the teeth that are not being wore down by chewing get long and pointy. These sharp points will result in painful lacerations in the mouth and may develop into oral ulcers.
If your horse has developed oral ulcers, chances are he’s letting you know with his behavior. You may notice that his mood has changed or he’s not cooperating you with like normal. This is because he is in pain and it’s making him cranky. Bad teeth can make riding an unpleasant experience for both horse and rider.
Behavior that points to teeth trouble:
- Throwing of head
- Acting up under saddle
- Unusual head movements
- Tilting of head while eating or riding
- Bit discomfort or shying from the bit
- Unable to stay in frame when riding
Difficulty Eating & Nutrition Loss
If a horse has uneven or sharp points on its teeth, the simple task of eating may no longer be so easy. Do you remember the last time you had a canker sore in your mouth and how much that hurt? Now you can imagine the pain of having lacerations in your mouth. The difference is with every chewing motion; horses continue to aggravate wounds on the insides of their mouths because their teeth have been worn to sharp glass-like enamel points. The situation is even worse if the lacerations have become infected.
Additionally, a horse’s overall health will generally suffer when teeth become uneven. They lose their ability to properly grind food. A horse’s gut is unable to extract nutrients from food if it is not properly ground, resulting in a lack of nutrition. This leads to overall poor health and reduced performance.
Many horse owners will notice that their horse, which unknowingly is in need of a float, is losing weight. To solve the problem, they will increase feed. This only treats the symptom (weight loss) when what really needs to be treated is the teeth. By keeping up to date on equine dentistry and having your horse’s teeth checked and floated (meaning smoothed or filed) once a year, it will help ensure that food is being fully digested and the horse is getting the maximum amount of nutrients from the smallest amount of feed.
Other signs that point to bad teeth:
- Dropping or losing grain
- Undigested grain such as kernels of corn or oats in manure
- Excessive saliva
- Horse soaks/dips food in water
- Chews food on only one side of the mouth
- Unexplained weight loss
- Eating slowly or showing excessive effort to eat
- Dual or dry coat
Cost And Money Saving Tips
So, how much does routine equine dentistry cost? It varies from practice to practice we recommend contacting our office for current rates.
Floating and other equine dentistry services can be performed the same day you are having other routine care performed: Coggins testing, Health Certificate, Routine Shots, etc. If you are having your veterinarian out to the farm to perform any of these other services simply ask them to include a dental checkup as well. There is no additional charge to check the teeth and a float can be performed if needed. This saves the cost of an additional farm call, except in cases when performance or sport horses are getting joint injections. It’s ill-advised to do dentistry and perform joint injections on the same day as the risk of a joint infection is increased if a dental float is performed at the same time.
If you have a gelding or stallion, schedule your dental check the same day you are having the sheath cleaned. You are already paying for a farm call and sedation. What better time to have the teeth checked and floated if needed.
At Mid-Rivers, the office charge fee is waved with a scheduled appointment if the equine dentistry service is done at the clinic on a Saturday and the bill is paid in full before leaving. This also includes any other routine services performed at the clinic on Saturdays.
Mid-Rivers also offers farm call splitting. If a group of barn mates gets their teeth floated on the same day, the farm call gets split amongst the group of owners. Note: A minimum split farm call fee per client will apply.
This once-a-year expense can help significantly improve the health of your horse and the pleasure of ownership, and cut down on excess feed cost. Not only is this procedure good for the horse’s health, it is good for the pocketbook, as well.
Contact Mid-Rivers today for more information on our equine dentistry services.