Info and Advice

Is my horse long in the tooth?

As most people are aware a horses teeth continue to grow throughout life. This is the basis of the expression ‘long in the tooth’. A horse’s natural diet contains a lot of roughage which helps to grind the horses tooth down. However, as a horse’s diet has changed and their average life span has increased, more care is required to maintain the health of their teeth. Sharp teeth can result in ulcers, quidding (dropping food when eating), excessive salivation, tossing the head when ridden, etc.


Basic dental care for a horse involves biannual or annual check-ups. A thorough oral exam is the first step in a dental procedure. This means placing a ‘gag’ in the horse’s mouth, allowing the mouth to be opened and all the teeth palpated and visualised. Once the teeth have been examined and any excess grass or hay washed out of the mouth the teeth are then ‘floated’ or rasped. This can be done using either hand rasps or a power float.

A power float is a battery operated power tool with a diamond grinding wheel that allows the safe, even removal of all sharp points. As it is a power tool the majority of horses that it is used on are sedated. This allows the procedure to be performed in a safe environment for both the owner and veterinarian. The power float also allows hooks, that can be up to 2-3 cm long, to be removed more safely and efficiently. These large hooks are removed in several visits over 6-12 months.

Often owners enquire about their horse’s wolf teeth and whether or not they require removal. Wolf teeth are most often situated in the upper arcade with 40-80% of horses having at least one wolf tooth. It is thought that wolf teeth can lead to head tossing or shaking when pressure is applied from the bit. If the wolf teeth are removed the pressure is applied to the much larger second premolar which can absorb the shock more readily.

Remember, healthy teeth make a happy horse.