Cavities In Horse Teeth

Geoff Tucker, DVM FAQ - Modern 2 Comments

These Are HORSE Teeth, Not HUMAN Teeth

Cavities do occur in horses, but they usually resolve by themselves either by self repair (but also with the removal of starch / grain) or a piece of tooth breaks off with no harm to the horse.

There are some equine dentists “filling” horse cavities saying that the horse will live on average 5 additional years because of the treatment. This is just a play on your emotions based on your fear of cavities in your own mouth.

Just as a reminder, these are HORSE teeth and not HUMAN teeth. They are completely different. Since 1983 I have not had 1 horse come to me with a complaint of a cavity causing him not to eat or causing any other issue.

What is happening is decay of one or more of the pulp chambers of a tooth which will eventually cause a fracture of a part of that tooth. Think of a wedge splitting a log into fire wood. The upper 9’s are the most commonly affected.

In 2013 at the AAEP meeting, it was mentioned that the dental acrylics used in the repair of these decaying areas is not effective. They usually fall out. Remember that horse teeth continually erupt with chewing and ware.

What I have found is that about 1 in every 40 horses (or more) I see has a tooth fracture which causes no problem in the horse other than occasionally the tooth fragment creates a painful rubbing ulcer in the cheek or tongue. The tooth fragment is easily removed and the sharp edges are then smoothed.

Locate a dentist certified in Horsemanship Dentistry™ in your state

Comments 2

  1. Hello,

    I have xrays etc if you require. My horse has a cavity in his back tooth. He had an abscess 6 years ago and I took him a local vet who Xrayed him and said to go to a specialist, The specialist did more scans/xrays didn’t feel it was necessary to take the tooth out. Recently, my horse developed a how grade fever and stopped eating, found cud in his stall (my hay is very fine and soft and green) and I had two vets come out. One took blood work which showed slight inflammation but ruled out any other causes (ie. Tick disease). The 2nd vet that I used (very seasoned and knowledgeable) came out and did an oral exam and said the tooth had a hole in it. There was no odor (from an Abscess) so not sure if maybe he was just starting to get one due to his temperature. I am on my 5th day of SMZ’s and I bute him one tablet twice a day. He is feeling a little better but still not able to eat hay and he is losing weight. Please let me know what you think I should do from here. My local vet said that it’s going to be a matter keeping him pain free and hoping he doesn’t get the tooth infected again.

    1. Post

      Thanks, Rima – Please understand that I cannot advise on a horse without seeing the horse; however, if your vet wants to contact me for advice, then it is legal.

      Tooth abscesses usually do not cause pain in horses and should not affect their ability to chew. Nor do they usually cause a fever. However, a tooth that has become fractured, a common sequela to cheek tooth decay, can cause difficulty in chewing and does not resolve with antibiotics. I’m not sure what a “hole” means.

      Your best bet is to have your vet re-examine your horse. Remember this saying: A hungry horse with a bad tooth usually keeps trying to eat, while a sick horse with no tooth problem usually doesn’t even try to eat. I hope this helps.

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