Sharp edges known as enamel cusps will naturally develop over time as the horses teeth erupt. These sharp cusps can often cause soreness, lacerations and ulcers to the sides of the cheeks and to the tongue. Horses with sores from these sharp cusps will find it painful to masticate. In the worst cases the horse will spit out balls of hay. This is called quidding.
Deciduous (Baby) Teeth
Between two and a half and four and a half years the transition from deciduous (Baby teeth) to permanent teeth occurs and concerns twenty-four deciduous teeth (12 incisors and 12 pre-molars). Often young horses have problems shedding the deciduous teeth which can be a painful experience. In some cases this can cause quidding and find difficulty in masticating there food. This can create temperament issues for a period of time. Often deciduous teeth, otherwise known as caps, fracture because they have trouble erupting clear of the new permanent pre-molar. These bumps are sometimes referred to as teething bumps and will usually disappear overtime. (Generally these are not a problem so long as they are bi-lateral.) If however they persist for a period of time veterinary intervention will be required and usually an x-ray will produce results.
Between the ages of 2 1/2 and 5yrs it is most important to have the horse examined every six months by a BAEDT member or experienced equine vet.
Wolf teeth are vestigial (remnants of what was a much larger tooth but through evolution is no longer is deemed important) and come in many different shapes and sizes. Usually they have a short crown with a root ranging from 5mm to 25mm
These small conical shaped teeth can often interfere with the bit and as a result they are often removed. This is due to the position of the tooth, which is normally just in front of the first upper cheek tooth on the maxilla (upper jaw) and occasionally on the mandible (the lower jaw).
Wolf teeth in young horses (under 3) are usually easier to extract than wolf teeth in older horses. As the horse gets older the roots of the tooth ossify within the alveolar socket ‘welding’ itself to the jaw bone.
Blind wolf teeth (unerupted wolf teeth) are usually problematic and are nearly always extracted. We do however approach this with an open mind as the extraction can be quite invasive and create problems of its own.
Hooks develop due to a misalignment of the molar arcades. This is commonly the result of an over-bite or under-bite (parrot mouth or sow mouth) of the incisor arcades. Unfortunately for horses and other herbivores alike, the part of a tooth which is not in contact with an opposing tooth will not be worn down as it should. Hooks then become dominant over time. Hooks can restrict the anterior/posterior and lateral movement of the mandible, and large hooks can cause extreme discomfort often leading to quidding, weight loss, choke and even colic.
Ramped molars are similar to hooks but have a more gradual slope to the tooth and can usually be found on the 1st lower cheek tooth or the last lower cheek tooth. Ramps can also inhibit the natural anterior posterior movement of the mandible, this is particularly important in the ridden horse. Ramps can create problems to the molar arcade alignment and may put pressure on the temporal mandibular joint (the hinge joint).
Excessive Transverse Ridges
Excessive Transverse Ridges are a series of horizontal ridges that occur across the grinding surfaces of the teeth, if these ridges become too exaggerated or irregular they will need to be reduced to a level which will improve function.
Excessive transverse ridges can restrict the movement of the temporal mandibular joint, forcing the horse to open its mouth to achieve anterior/posterior and lateral movement of the mandible. In the worst cases this may create performance issues when the horse is ridden as the molar arcades may be touching all of the time. Reduction of the ETR should be done with over a period of time keeping the integrity of the affected teeth.
A step occurs when the clinical crown of one cheek tooth is longer than those in the rest of the arcade. This usually occurs when a horse is either missing a cheek tooth, opposing a diseased or a impacted cheek tooth. The ‘step’ in the molar arcade can restrict the lateral excursion, and anterior/ posterior movement of the mandible. The Step should be checked on a regular basis and reduced as necessary.
Shear mouth is a result of increased table angles. Most horses will struggle with a poor mastication cycle. It is self perpetuating (it will only get worse if left untreated) and can be on one side of the mouth or both. In most cases it will be classified as a serious dental condition.
This term describes uneven wear of the molar arcades creating a roller coaster affect to the grinding table. This problem usually comes from a lack of dental attention as a young horse. Impacted molars which are slow to erupt or retained caps generally are the cause of a wave mouth. Wave mouth in horses seen at a young enough age can be corrected. However in aged horses this condition usually has to be managed.
Teeth can become diseased or infected due to trauma or abnormal wear over a long period of time. Chronic infection of the teeth can lead to general health problems; decayed upper cheek teeth can also cause infections of the sinus cavities (Sinusitis).
The incisor teeth are found at the front of the horse’s mouth and are used for ‘grazing’ the grass. The considered norm is for the horse to have a set of twelve deciduous incisors, which are replaced by twelve permanent incisors. However this is not always the case. In some breeds it is not uncommon to find odd numbers of teeth.
Ventral Curvature (Smile)
The incisors are curved upwards at both sides when viewed head on, hence the term a ‘smile’. In this instance the lower corner incisors are too long, as are the upper central incisors. It restricts the lateral excursion (sideways movement of incisors) which in turn affects the ‘grind’ or efficiency of the cheek teeth. The condition is usually treated with the use of motorised equipment. In most cases further treatment will be required.
Offset (Slant or Diagonal bite)
When looking at the incisors from the front of the horse, the incisors should look almost level. In some cases they are not and are clearly on a slant. This is called a ‘slant mouth’. The horse with a slant has upper incisors which are too long meeting lower incisors which are too short on one side of the mouth. On the other side the problem is reversed. This condition is corrected using motorised equipment and highly recommended the horse is sedated by a vet. It is not uncommon for there to be quite severe cheek teeth problems, when the horse has slanted incisors. We find it favourable to address both problems at the same time.
Dorsal Curvature (Frown)
The exact opposite of a ventral curvature. It is again corrected by realigning the incisor arcades, usually with the use of motorised equipment.
When a horse is missing a permanent incisor, or has a badly damaged incisor, problems usually develop over time. The problem being that as the incisors erupt normally, they are usually worn by the opposing teeth. If one is missing the healthy opposing incisor can erupt into the gap. This can present a problem with the lateral excursion (sideways movement) and can lock the incisors. As the healthy tooth continues to erupt, the situation usually becomes worse. Horses with this problem may quid and will have to chomp their food with a vertical up and down less preferred action. The treatment for this is to reduce the over long incisor with the use of motorised equipment. The tooth will always need regular treatment as it will continue to erupt even after a series of treatments.
Or commonly referred to as a ‘parrot mouth’. The upper incisors protrude too far forward in relation to the lower incisors. It is also common to find ‘rostral’ (nose end of the head) hooks, and caudal (neck end of the head) hooks on the molar arcades. In most cases a procedure known as an ‘incisor reduction’ is performed to restore anterior-posterior movement of the jaw, and to reduce pressure that this exerts on the Temporal-mandibular joint. Horses that have this condition do very well as long as regular treatment is sort.
Referred to as a “sow mouth” this is a relatively rare abnormality. The lower incisors protrude too far forward in relation to the upper incisors. As with the horses that have an overbite, molar malocclusions are prevalent. Again it is imperative that this condition is managed on a regular basis.
Diastemata are pathological spaces between adjacent teeth. These spaces allow food to accumulate between the teeth, which in time ferment and can lead to periodontal disease. Diastemata may be secondary to other conditions such as displacement of certain teeth or ETR. Treatment is dependent on the severity of the periodontal disease and the causing factors. The mouth may need balancing and the diastema may need to be flushed out. In severe cases veterinary intervention is often necessary as antibiotics and anti inflammatory drugs may be required. More advanced dental treatment by a may also need to be completed.