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Roger Weller, geology instructor
by Keisha Newman
Domesticated horses experience much more wear and tear to their mouths
due to bit usage and controlled supplemental diets and while in most cases this
benefits dental health as long as they get routine dental visits, horses can
still experience many oral problems throughout a lifetime.
As humans we understand the importance of maintaining a clean healthy
mouth. We also have the ability to voice our concerns when we experience oral
discomfort, and we have the means to get ourselves help. Horses do not have
that luxury, and may experience many of the same problems we have with our
teeth, along with other issues caused by their specific diet. Unfortunately too
many horse owners overlook the condition of their animals’ tender mouth.
Horses’ teeth are composed of calcium, phosphorus, and other mineral
salts. Most of the tooth is made of dentine, protected by an outer layer of
enamel. This is very similar to the composition of human teeth. However
because of their herbivorous diets they experience slightly different problems.
The silica in grass breaks down teeth more rapidly.
Just like people, horses must be looked at by a dentist at least once per year,
however twice per year is preferred. Over time horses teeth become very jagged
and sharp from chewing and grinding (A horse chews about 30,000 times per day).
This can cause open mouth soars which can cause much discomfort to the horse.
Many people confuse their horses’ oral discomfort with bad behavior, because they will throw their heads, chomp the bit, or other things that seem like disobedience but are actually the horse trying to let you know they are in a lot of pain. Having a horses teeth “floated” by an equine dentist or vet twice a year will smooth away the rough and jagged edges.
Horses’ teeth are anelodontic, meaning when they get older eventually
their teeth stop growing yet they continue to grind them away. This is how
veterinarians can tell a horse’s approximate age, from the wear on their teeth.
Once its teeth stop growing the horse will grind about 3-4 millimeters per
year. It is very hard to keep weight on an older horse, however by giving them
softer hays and grains, or soaking pellets in water will make eating for them
"Anatomy." Anatomy. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2013.
"Equine Dental Technician." FAQs about Equine (Horse) Dentistry. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2013.
"What Are Teeth Made Of?" What Are Teeth Made Of? N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2013.