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:
- We have modified the horse's diet and eating patterns through domestication and confinement.
- We demand more from our performance horses, beginning at a younger age, than ever before.
- We often select breeding animals without regard to dental considerations.
- 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 AAEP.
1st incisors (centrals) - Birth or 1st week
2nd incisors (intermediates) - 4-6 weeks
3rd incisors (corners) - 6-9 months
1st, 2nd, & 3rd premolars (cheek teeth) - Birth or first 2 weeks for all premolars
Permanent (Adult Teeth)
1st incisors (centrals) - 2 1/2 years
2nd incisors (intermediates) - 3 1/2 years
3rd incisors (corners) - 4 1/2 years
Canines (bridle) - 4-5 years
Wolf teeth (1st premolars) - 5-6 months
2nd premolars (1st cheek teeth) - 2 1/2 years
3rd premolars (2nd cheek teeth) - 3 years
4th premolars (3rd cheek teeth) - 4 years
1st molars (4th cheek teeth) - 9-12 months
2nd molars (5th cheek teeth) - 2 years
3rd molars (6th cheek teeth) - 3 1/2 - 4 years
Wolf teeth are very small teeth located in front of the second premolar. They rarely appear in the lower jaw. A horse may have one to four, or no wolf teeth. While not all wolf teeth are troublesome, veterinarians routinely remove them to prevent pain or interference with a bit.