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Horse Talk: Oral Exams Matter at Every Age

Image of vet checking horses teeth.

Regular dental care is an important part of equine wellness care. Horses have a hypsodont tooth and an anisognathic jaw conformation. This means that the upper jaw is wider than the lower jaw, an arrangement that maximizes a horse’s chewing efficiency. A horse’s teeth and bite are important for more than just chewing efficiency – the bite is also but also for behavior and training. Many behavioral issues are linked to dental problems, such as equine TMJ.

A young foal typically receives an oral health exam shortly after birth. This includes a brief visual and digital examination of the foal’s bite. A normal bite ensures the foal’s teeth will properly develop into adulthood. Identifying bite abnormalities at an early age is the best way to prevent and correct problems such as parrot mouth or sow mouth.

The frequency with which horses receive oral exams is dependent on several factors. In general, equine veterinarians recommend bi-annual exams until a horse reaches five years of age. The first five years are a critical period for identifying tooth and jaw abnormalities and taking decisive steps to correct these problems.

However, oral care and exams should not be limited to a horse’s first years. Regular oral health exams should be part of every wellness checkup. During this exam, an equine dentist will check a horse’s bite and then file the teeth to keep them smooth and contoured. Filing teeth, also known as “floating a horse’s teeth” eliminates discomfort and pain while chewing, protecting a horse’s hypsodont tooth and an anisognathic jaw conformation. Following a dental exam, horse owners often receive a detailed chart outlining the horse’s mouth and recommendations for follow-up care.

As horses age, a bi-annual oral exam is important for monitoring the health of a horse’s molars and watching for signs of excessive wear. As molars begin to wear out, horses become less efficient in processing and grinding feed. Minor adjustments to a horse’s diet can help prevent excess wear and tear and extend the life of a horse’s molars. Identifying excessive wear and tear as early as possible will allow a veterinarian to design a custom dietary program to suit a horse’s specific wellness needs.

Since a horse’s mouth requires expert care, carefully select a licensed equine veterinarian with experience treating oral health problems to examine your horse.

Source:
American Association of Equine Practitioners, “Equine Dental Care.”

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  • "They took great care of my mare! I was able to set up payment over the phone and I got a detailed email with records of what they did and recommendations for future care. I’m pretty impressed with how affordable it was considering the level of care! I’ll definitely be using them from now on."
    Kayleigh Ann L.
  • "Very thorough and just all around wonderful! Took excellent care of my sweet horse!"
    Jennifer C.
  • "For people that take their horses dental health seriously, these are the best care providers & teachers I have found. Their passion about the science of equine dental health is second to none!"
    Dawn B.
  • "Kari,
    Thank you for the great work you did on our horses yesterday. This older mare with the front teeth problem and tongue hanging out is doing great. She is much, much more comfortable eating. Charlie is also doing much better today, visibly more comfortable eating. Thank you for a great job, my horses are so much happier today - makes me feel good to see that."
    Andrea B.
  • "Dear Dr. Marx and Lisa, too,

    This is just to let you know that you have made a huge difference to our old horse's well-being. He is chewing so much better and no longer drops his grain or leaves wads of hay on the ground. Thank you, thank you. We are delighted to have found out about you and the important and great work you do.
    With sincere gratitude,"
    Margot H.
  • "Scott Marx is not only knowledge and talented but he is kind, funny, easy to work with and reasonably priced. You pay for what you get and with Dr. Marx, you get the BEST! He has been my horses’ dentist for 16 years and I hope he will continue to be for the next 16+!"
    Catherine J.
  • "Awesome service- fantastic Equine Dentist!! I will be using them as a regular client."
    Greg S.
  • "Wonderful work. I trust them completely with my horses teeth. Will never use anyone else."
    Jessica P
  • "Dr. Kari Sanderson treated my horse and was wonderful! She explained everything she did and was very patient. I will use them going forward and will recommend them to all of my friends."
    Jessica S.
  • "Very professional and caring. Dr. Sanderson and her assistant took the time my gelding needed to make him comfortable. In addition, she took the time to show me everything she saw, talked through what was done, and future recommendations. Thank you so much for coming to take care of my boy!"
    Audrey A.