Sampson’s Abnormal Teeth:
Sampson injured his mouth when he was a young colt, when his dam was taken out of her stall to be ridden and he panicked. Thrashing about, he badly damaged his jaw. Now he has a permanent abnormality. Some of his lower teeth never developed, and a couple are smaller than normal. Look on the bottom, our left, Sampson’s right side. Then look at the upper two teeth on our left side. You can see how these two are longer than the upper two on our right side. This is because the corresponding teeth above the empty space on the bottom to have nothing to wear down off of. So, this leaves Sampson with some specific dentistry needs. For an example of some more normal looking mouths click here: Equine Dentistry (at) Kington Langley Stud.
How Equine Teeth Get Longer:
Horses are definitely NOT rodents, but they do share this one thing in common: their teeth will continue to grow for their entire lives, although I should clarify what I mean by this. Equine teeth do not actually “grow,” instead they are already formed within the skull of the horse, and they continue to “move down” which gives the appearance of “growing.” Of course, there are some older horses who have worn through their complete set of teeth, and end up toothless. Feeding an older horse missing some teeth requires a lot of extra TLC.
Why Is Dental Work Necessary?
Normally, when a horse has all their teeth and their jaw has no abnormalities, there is some natural wearing away as the upper jaw grinds back and forth against the bottom jaw’s teeth. However, over time, sharp points form on the outside of the teeth, causing the horse to cut the inside of their own mouth if the ridges are severe enough. Routine floating from your veterinarian will take care of this.
The second thing that happens regularly over time is that the teeth wear uneavenly and form a “roller coaster” looking wave in the back of the teeth. This also causes problems, as in both cases the horse is not able to properly chew his or her hay. Most horses, in my experience, need their teeth resurfaced every 2-4 years, but this is very much a case-by-case thing. In Sampson’s case, he pretty much needs his teeth resurfaced every year, due to his mouth’s inability to wear down normally. Your veterinarian will work with you to come up with a custom care plan for your horse’s teeth maintenance.
The third thing that can happen with a horse’s mouth is not as common as the first two. A tooth can break, abscess, or cause an open wound deep within the horse’s nasal cavities. Any sign that your horse is not eating normally should be thoroughly checked out, as well as strange and foul odors around the mouth and abnormal discharges coming out of either nostril. Get help right away if you notice any of these things.
But I’ve never had dental work done on my horse, and they are just fine!
How long have you had your horse? If you have had him or her for more than a few years, consider yourself fortunate that your horse has not yet come down with impaction colic due to improperly chewed food. With colder temperatures that winter typically brings, horses often do not drink as much water. This leaves them at greater risk for impaction colic due to slight dehydration. The combination of less water, sharp teeth, and extra hay in the winter is often, in my experience, the killer 3 combination that causes colic. Please don’t be a gambler when it comes to the health of your horse.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. Call your veterinarian. Research it online. Here’s a website and a group dedicated to eradicating colic, the most preventable, common, and at times lethal horse condition: Crusade Against Equine Colic. Of course, sometimes you try to do everything right, and your horse still gets colic, but you still can greatly reduce the chances of colic, reduce the incidences of it, and reduce its severity if you practice good, solid management skills with your horses. There are many other things, besides routine dentistry for your horse, that you can do to prevent colic. Do you know what those things are?
I am not a veterinarian, just a horse crazy gal with plenty of horsey experience sharing my own observations. 🙂 May you and your horse have many happy trails together!