Equine Dental Care

Regular dental examinations are an essential part of health care, particularly for horses being fed grain based “hard feeds”. The most common problem that can reduce the efficacy of chewing is the development of sharp edges on the cheek teeth (the larger premolar and molar teeth).

The horse's bottom jaw is narrower than the top jaw and it moves from side to side. Therefore sharp edges develop on the outside border of the upper teeth, and the inside of the lower teeth. These interfere with chewing and can lacerate the cheeks and tongue.


Signs that dental treatment is needed:

Prevention is better than cure and with regular maintenance, most problems can be prevented. There are signs however that there is a problem that needs attention. Keep an eye out for the following signals:


The most obvious signs of dental trouble is a change in chewing habits:

  • Your horse may dribble or drop feed out of its mouth while eating
  • They may “quid” the food (rolling the feed into balls rather than chewing) and then dropping it on the ground
  • Your horse could wash feed in his water bucket
  • They may hold their head to one side when eating
  • They may refuse to eat hard grain or bolt grain and loose condition
  • Horses may swallow before chewing is complete and this may lead to colic


Physical signs may include:

  • The presence of excess saliva
  • Halitosis (bad breath)
  • Swelling of the face or jaw
  • Bleeding from the mouth
  • Loss of condition
  • Presence of whole grains in the manure due to unsatisfactory chewing


Bad oral health may also cause behavioural problems in horses such as:

  • Tossing their head when being ridden
  • Pulling to one side when ridden
  • Increased resistance to the bridle
  • Becoming nervous (anticipating a pain response)
  • Lunging, rearing and being generally unsettled or unwilling to perform correctly or consistently


The following chart shows the approximate ages at which different teeth erupt. By referring to it, you may detect potential abnormalities associated with teething.


Deciduous (Baby teeth)


1st incisors (centrals)

Birth or first week

2nd incisors (intermediate)

4-6 weeks

3rd incisors (corners)

6-9 months

1st, 2nd and 3rd premolars (cheek teeth)

Birth or first two weeks

Permanent Teeth (Adult Teeth)


1st incisors (centrals)

2.5 years

2nd incisors (intermediate)

3.5 years

3rd incisors (corners)

4.5 years

Canines (Bridle)

4-5 years

Wolf Teeth (1st premolars)

5-6 months

2nd premolars (1st cheek teeth)

2.5 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)

3.5-4 years