Young Horse Dental Care

Geoff Tucker, DVM FAQ - Advanced Leave a Comment

The Teeth Of Horses Under Five Years Old Are Very Dynamic

Dental care in young horses should begin about 2 1/2 years of age or 2 weeks before you introduce a bit into their mouths.

Teeth in horses younger than 5 years old are softer than older horses and go through very dynamic changes. When you start to float a young horse, it becomes a commitment to continue floating that horse every 3 to 4 months. In that short period of time, new teeth erupt, floated caps are ejected, and soft teeth become sharp again. Therefore, young horses need floating 3 to 4 times a year

This paradigm replaces the old saying that only older horses need to be floated.

Caps
All of the front teeth (the incisors) and half of the cheek teeth (the premolars) start with baby teeth. These are called “caps” by horsemen and are deciduous, meaning they fall out, and are replaced with permanent teeth. The total number of caps that fall out between 2 ½ years and 5 years of age is 24.

Wolf teeth
The number of teeth in the horse mouths is decreasing. The first premolar teeth, both on the top and bottom jaws, are gradually disappearing. What remains in most horses today are 2 very small teeth with sharp points in front of the 2 upper cheek teeth.

It has become traditional in dentistry of horses to remove these vestigial teeth because some of them can cause pain when a bit is used in riding. These teeth are called “wolf” teeth and you can look up the several reasons why they are. I like the one about the General who couldn’t control his horse many centuries ago. The teeth were removed but the troops were told that it was wolves that had scared his horse. Whatever you want to believe is fine with me.

Sometimes these teeth don’t fully erupt. Instead of erupting perpendicular to the jaw, the go horizontally and parallel to the jaw. They never erupt but become encapsulated in fibrous tissue creating a lump. They are almost always non-painful and don’t bother the horse. However, horse owners find them and ask for their removal. They are called “Blind Wolf Teeth.”

Wolf teeth can also be found in front of the first lower cheek teeth on the lower jaw. I often find these in Thoroughbreds, Shetland Ponies, and Donkeys.

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