Why Does My Horse Need Dental Care?


Unlike humans, horses teeth erupt continuously throughout their lives, and horses rely on grinding their food to wear them down.  Horses no longer eat as they did in the wild, and this adds to problems as grain diets and more limited pasture do not wear the teeth as much as traditional forage.  All teeth erupt independently of each other and do not always erupt correctly.  This can cause many problems for the horse if left unchecked, hence the need for proper dental care to make your horse as comfortable as possible.


The horse’s mandible (lower jaw).  Note the length of the horse’s molars inside the jaw bone.  Each tooth erupts continuously throughout the horse’s life.


Proper dental maintenance is essential to allow peak performance and harmony between the horse and rider. Thorough dental care can have a number of benefits, including:

·      prevent premature tooth loss and promote more complete utilisation of feed;

·      allow a less stressful eruption of the permanent teeth by the timely removal of shedding deciduous teeth (caps);

·      alleviating temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain (jaw), and locked up jaw;

·      preventing pain due to the use of a bit, making it easier for the horse to be trained;

·      reducing behavioural problems and bit evasions such as head tossing, head tilting, snatching at the reins, gaping mouth, and head above or behind the vertical;

·      reducing the incidence of colic;

·      a reduction in the cost of feed bills for the owner as the horse is able to masticate (chew) properly and get the full benefit from feedstuffs.


All horses should have a regular dental maintenance programme.  Horses should be examined at an early age and floated around 2 years of age or before they are bitted.  Young horses and performance horses should ideally be examined six monthly, and all horses should at least have an annual check up.


A performance float will shape the cheek teeth and/or the incisors by the use of hand floats and/or mechanical files or burs if necessary to restore balance, allow more efficient mastication and reduce pain and trauma to the gum tissues.  This includes:

·      thorough examination of the head and mouth using a mouth speculum;

·      removing sharp points from the teeth;

·      removing hooks and ramps, and correcting waves, excessive transverse ridges, high molars or steps to free up lateral excursion and other normal movements of the mandible (jaw);

·      smoothing the cheek teeth to reduce laceration to the cheeks and tongue;

·      creating bit-seats as required for various bitting preferences to improve the horse’s comfort with the bit;

·      reduction and realignment of incisors as needed;

·      removal of wolf teeth, reduction of canines and removal of tartar on canines as needed.


A performance float costs $60 including gst.  If travelling outside the Wellington area a small travel cost is usually divided between owners.

Most horses only need a routine performance float, but if more extensive work is required a fee is worked out accordingly.