In order to keep them healthy and comfortable, most horses need a yearly visit from the dentist.
A trip to the dentist is a necessary part of life for humans, but did you know that horses go to the dentist, too? Or, more accurately, typically the dentist comes to them. But when horses get a visit from the dentist, there's no dental chair involved, and the tools used are entirely different.
Horses' teeth continually grow as they age, so that the teeth are replaced as they get worn down by chewing. But sometimes horses' teeth grow unevenly. They can develop sharp edges or hooks on their teeth which make it difficult and sometimes painful for them to chew properly. And if these issues get too bad, horses can start to choke on underchewed food, or may lose weight because they can't get the nutrition they need from their food. Tooth issues can also make it uncomfortable for a horse to have a bit in his mouth.
So, visits from the dentist are necessary. Some horse owners use a true equine dentist who specializes in equine teeth, while many owners opt to use a veterinarian who is trained to address equine dental issues.
A dentist (or veterinarian) will visit the barn and float a horse's teeth. Floating refers to grinding down the sharp hooks or edges of the horse's teeth so that the teeth meet each other evenly. It's not as painful as it sounds, since horses don't have nerves in the exterior ends of their teeth.
But getting a horse to hold his mouth open can be a challenge. The dentist will insert a speculum into the horse's mouth, which holds the mouth open just wide enough for the dentist to get his float, or rasp, into the mouth. Some horses will stand for the procedure willingly, while others require a little sedation to help them relax.
The whole process takes just a few minutes, and once it's completed the horse can eat and drink normally. There's no pain medication needed, and the dental work is non-invasive. Most horses need to have their teeth floated about once a year.
Staying on top of a horse's dental care is important, since it can have major implications for the horse's health and overall comfort.
How do you care for your horse's teeth? Tell us in the comments below!
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