Thursday, September 15, 2011

Equine Molar Check

Feeling Harley's molars

Harley's equine dentist taught me how to feel the junction between the upper and lower jaw.  The junction feels like a ridge, as the upper and lower jaw do not line up exactly like human teeth.  The upper jaw is wider than the lower jaw.  You can feel the overlapping upper jaw from outside the horse's mouth.  Standing next to your horse, very gently massage up against the "ridge".  If your horse throws his head up in protest, he may be ready for his next dental appointment.  Of course, this is only one small indicator and floating is not the entirety of equine dentistry.  Regular, competent dental care is necessary for all domestic horses.

The molars of domestic horses often form sharp points.  The points form on the outside of the upper molars and on the inside of the lower molars.  The points hook down and up, respectively, against the opposite molar.  If the points are not removed by floating, the upper and lower jaw will not be able to slide laterally as the horse chews, grinding his food with a circular motion of the lower jaw.  I have seen the veterinarian and my teacher hold the upper and lower jaw and test how easily they will slide past one another.  As the points on the molars become long, the jaws will not slide back and forth.  The points will worsen since the teeth and plant material can no longer wear down the edges of the molars.  It should go without saying that this will impact the horse's ability to chew his food and perform his duties as a safe, fun, riding horse.  Take care when pressing the cheek against the teeth, because if the outer surfaces of the teeth are rough, the skin inside the mouth could be sensitive or even injured.  The sharpness of horse teeth must also be considered if you open your horse's mouth and hold his tongue to examine his teeth.  A horse can cut his own tongue if it is pulled against his teeth.  Always use caution when putting your own hands in your horse's mouth. 

As long as the horse's cheek is comfortable next to his teeth, most horses enjoy their gums and cheek massaged right along this ridge.  Gently circle the pads of your fingers or flatten your fingers and apply some pressure back and forth.  Allow your horse's response to guide your technique.  This is a little thing that I do, once in a while, when I am grooming my horse.  I massage both sides at once when I am not holding a camera.  ;)

Harley drops his neck and gives me the soft eye during a nice gum massage.
Harley likes his dentist.  The dentist believes that most horses feel better after a float and remember this when the next visit rolls around.  Harley's will be coming up in October or November. 

Related Links:
Equine Dental Care
The Dental Dilemma


  1. When the subject of floating teeth comes up, I alway stop to ponder what the horses in the wild do. I have no idea if there is an answer or not.
    It is nice that Harley is a good boy for his floating, I know it is a very important part of keeping your horse happy and healthy. I was never taught how to check like that, I wish someone had showed me that when I had my horse. Good to know!

  2. Hi Mary- From what I have read, wild horses are less likely to develop points, because they always eat with a low head position and dry plant material is very good for polishing the teeth. Ultimately, an otherwise healthy wild horse dies from his teeth loosing their function in one way or another. Also true for deer.

  3. Thanks! This was good to know. My horses have "special" teeth issues, special as in they cost a lot. Coriander has a wave and Gwen's tiny head makes it hard to get her back molars done correctly. I joked to my vet last time they were done that I'd save a lot of money if I just fed them rocks (for the record I do not intend to feed them rocks).

    I think wild horses in arid regions also get grit in their mouths while they graze which helps to wear down the points.

  4. How funny on the timing -- I left a message earlier today with our equine vet to schedule their routine dentistry -- which is due this month or next.

  5. I am always so disappointed by how many people don'5 take of their horse's teeth. I think it's simply out of ignorance. I've blogged many times about my vet and even have a cute video of Speedy G getting his teeth done. I am glad other bloggers are sharing tooth stuff. The more we share, the better our ponies' lives will be. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Hi Everyone!

    I am delighted by your enthusiasm for this topic. I was wondering if it would get the cricket chirp. I have a couple other tooth topics that I am interested in reading and writing about.

    Since you mentioned it smazourek, my horse has very special teeth, too. VERY special. Sigh.


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