Though you may not love having to visit your dentist every six months, chances are that you appreciate the importance of these regular visits. After all, your dentist can inspect your oral cavity and identify signs of potential problems before you’re even aware they exist, and perform important preventative procedures that help you to maintain optimal oral health. The same can be said for a horse–certain dental procedures are necessary to ensure that they maintain optimal oral health. One such procedure is teeth floating.
Like humans, horses grow two sets of teeth, but unlike humans, a horse’s teeth keep growing after they break into the mouth. Considering that their eating habits tend to cause their teeth to wear down far more quickly than a human’s teeth, this could be viewed as a good thing, and it is. However, constant tooth growth also means that a horse’s teeth can develop sharp, uneven edges, which can make it difficult for them to chew their food or hold a bit. It can also cause them to experience oral discomfort or pain. The solution to these sharp, uneven edges is teeth floating.
Why Teeth Floating is Necessary
By the time they reach five years of age, horses usually have their full set of adult, permanent teeth. A full set of adult, permanent teeth ranges anywhere from thirty-six to forty-four teeth, and each one of these teeth have an important job. The front teeth are used for cutting hay and grass, while the back teeth are used for grinding. Proper grinding is essential to good digestion, but it cannot occur when the surfaces of the teeth are uneven.
The most common problem that develops on a horse’s teeth due to constant growth and uneven wear is sharp points next to the cheek and tongue. Needless to say, a horse can experience considerable discomfort or pain when these points cut into the cheek and tongue and create sores. This can result in a reluctance to eat and can even lead to weight loss issues. It can also cause the horse to display great resistance while being ridden, due to the fact that the bit can rub against these sores and cause additional discomfort and pain. Teeth floating is therefore an important part of your horse’s preventative dental health care, especially if your horse is not able to graze regularly and grind their teeth down that way.
Some of the signs that indicate your horse needs their teeth floated include:
- Dropping food from their mouth
- Exhibiting chewing difficulties
- Salivating excessively
- Losing weight
- Passing undigested food in their manure
- Uncharacteristic head-tossing
- Excessive bit chewing
- Reluctance to have a bridle on
- Mouth odor
- Bloody mouth
- Swollen face
- Nasal discharge
Basics of Teeth Floating
Different horses have different needs when it comes to teeth floating. Some horses may need their teeth floated every few months, while other horses may be able to go several years in between teeth floating procedures. Furthermore, horses can often display little to no symptoms when suffering from dental issues, even when they are in bad need of teeth floating. For these and other reasons, regular dental examinations are extremely important.
In order to float your horse’s teeth, the veterinarian will first sedate your horse in order to better ensure their relaxation, comfort and safety during the procedure. Their head needs to remain still and erect throughout the procedure. This is often accomplished by placing a special halter over their head and affixing a rope to this halter, then tying the rope over a ceiling rafter or similar fixture. A tool called a mouth speculum is inserted into your horse’s mouth in order to keep it open throughout the procedure. Then, using a special file called a float, the veterinarian will flatten the high points on your horse’s teeth, creating a smooth grinding surface between the upper and lower teeth so that they can better chew and digest their food. The entire procedure takes roughly fifteen to twenty minutes to complete, and does not cause undue pain since your horse’s nerves end close to their gum line, away from where the procedure is taking place.
Teeth floating is just one important part of your horse’s overall dental health care. For more information about floating teeth and other equine dental services, contact La Crosse today.