Cherokee Animal Clinic
P O Box 416
665 Johnson Street
Rusk, TX 75785
Clinic Hours:
Monday - Friday 7:30 am - 5:30 pm

By Bayer

Routine dental care is essential to your horse's in health.
Periodic examinations and regular maintenance, such as floating, are especially necessary today for a number of reasons:

Proper dental care has its rewards. Your horse will be more comfortable, will utilize feed more efficiently, may perform better, and may even live longer.


Horses evolved as grazing animals, and their teeth are perfectly adapted for that purpose. The forward teeth, known as incisors, function to shear off forage. The cheek teeth, including the molars and premolars with their wide, flat, graveled surfaces, easily grind the feed to a mash before it is swallowed.

Like humans, horses get two sets of teeth in their lifetime. The baby teeth, also called deciduous teeth, are temporary. The first deciduous incisors may erupt before the foal is born. The last baby teeth come in when the horse is about 8 months of age. These teeth begin to be replaced by adult teeth around age 2 1/2. By age 5, most horses have their full complement of permanent teeth. An adult male horse has 40 permanent teeth. A mare may have between 36-40, because mares are less likely to have canine (bridle) teeth.

The following chart shows the approximate ages at which different teeth erupt. By referring to it, you may detect potential abnormalities of your own horse associated with teething. For more information, refer to the Official Guide for Determining the Age of the Horse, published by the American Association of Equine Practitioners.


Horses may suffer from many dental problems. The most common include:


Horses with dental problems may show obvious signs, such as pain or irritation, or they may show no noticeable signs at all. That is due to the fact that some horses simply adapt to their discomfort. For this reason, periodic dental examinations are essential. Indicators of dental problems include:


The process of rasping or filing a horse's teeth is known as floating. This is the most common dental procedure veterinarians perform on horses. Floating removes sharp enamel points and can create a more even bite plane. It also helps keep incisors and cheek teeth at a desirable length.

When turned out on pasture, horses browse almost continuously, picking up dirt and grit in the process. This, plus the silicate in grass, wears down the teeth. Stabled horses, however, may not give their teeth the same workout. Feedings are more apt to be scheduled, not continuous, and to include processed grains and hays. Softer feeds require less chewing. This may allow the horse's teeth to become excessively long or to wear unevenly. Adult horse's teeth erupt throughout their life and are worn off by chewing.

Unfortunately, cheek teeth tend to develop sharp enamel points even under normal grazing conditions. Because the horse's lower jaw is narrower than its upper jaw and the horse grinds its feed with a sideways motion, sharp points tend to form along the edges. Points form on the cheek side of the upper teeth and the tongue side of the lower teeth. These points should be rasped to prevent them from cutting the cheeks and tongue.

Floating is especially important in horses who have lost a tooth, or whose teeth are in poor apposition and do not fit together well. Normally, contact with the apposing tooth keeps biting surfaces equal. When cheek teeth are out of alignment, hooks can form.

If left unchecked, these hooks can become long enough to penetrate the hard or soft palate. Small hooks can be removed by floating. Longer hooks are usually removed with molar cutters or a dental chisel.


Wolf teeth are very small teeth located in front of the second premolar and do not have long roots that set them firmly in the jaw bone. They rarely appear in the lower jaw. A horse may have one, two, or no wolf teeth. While not all wolf teeth are troublesome, veterinarians routinely remove them to prevent pain or interference from a bit.




Serious dental conditions can develop, such as infections of the teeth and gums, extremely long hooks on the molars, lost or fractured teeth, and others. These conditions may require surgical treatment and/or extraction by a veterinarian. Call us to recommend the best treatment.

Care Credit