What Does an Equine Dentistry Exam Involve?

December 17, 2020

What Does an Equine Dentistry Exam Involve?
What Does an Equine Dentistry Exam Involve?

Horses can suffer from dental problems just like humans. In fact, studies have shown that almost three-quarters of horses show some sort of behavior that suggests that they may be suffering from dental pain.

So, what do owners need to know about equine dentistry exams?


When Is a Dental Examination Needed?

Horses can suffer from varied dental issues, ranging from abnormal wear and tear to loose teeth, decay, and abscesses. Many of these problems can turn into something serious if left untreated for too long. Some of the signs that a horse is suffering from dental issues are eating slowly, avoiding the bit, and not wanting to drink cold water.

Other indications of problems needing resolved are the likes of bad breath, visible gaps between teeth, and weight loss. Any of these signs should be a trigger for the owner to think about getting their horse’s teeth checked out.

In general terms, an annual dental exam is recommended even when there are no signs of problems with their teeth. Some horses won’t change their behavior or temperament even when they are suffering from serious problems like a fractured tooth, so it could go un-noticed for a long time if no exam is made.

Yet, close to a quarter of horse owners have admitted in surveys that it was over 12 months since they last got a dental exam carried out.  Some horses may also need to receive more regular checkups, while those animals that show excellent dental health may be able to go longer than a year between exams.

As with humans, age and any pre-existing conditions need to be taken into account when deciding how often a particular horse should get this sort of exam carried out.

How Is It Carried Out?

Horses are usually sedated for a dental examination, to ensure that the entire procedure is carried out without any fuss, stress, or risk of injury. The process should take up to half an hour. During this time, the vet will look and feel their teeth while also checking out their lips, cheeks, gums, and lymph nodes.

A full mouth spectrum is often used as part of this exam. This piece of veterinary equipment is put onto the horse’s head and slips between their teeth, to keep the mouth open as the vet works.

Does Dental Care Change for Racehorses?

When it comes to racehorses, these animals receive the finest care and attention that money can buy. The most valuable racehorse purchase in the world to date was the $60 million or so paid for Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000.

This thoroughbred stallion earned almost $2 million in prize money and won the 2000 Kentucky Derby, as well as siring several winners despite being generally regarded as a disappointing stud for the price. Click here to know more about the Kentucky Derby winners.

Given the huge value of the best racehorses and the sums available in prize money for top races, it is no wonder that their owners look after them as well as possible. Racehorses can suffer from muscle strains due to their exertions and stomach ulcers because of their fiber-rich diet.

However, there is nothing to suggest that they are more prone to suffering dental problems. In fact, because staff keep such a close eye on them it is far more likely that any potential issues are spotted more quickly. Therefore, there is nothing special in the dental treatment of racehorses.


The question of dental care is just as important for horses as it is for humans. With a variety of potential issues to be taken into account, an annual check-up or an exam when any signs are noted is essential.  



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