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Take 5 things- When do you need to call the Dentist?

Updated: Jul 11

Welcome to this weeks Take 5 things EquiNation series. In this edition we are going to explain a little bit about horses teeth and give you a few points to look for that could mean its time to call the horse dentist!

A light is used to see inside the horses teeth and check the horses teeth

This blog is brought to you in the word of Ian Hargreaves a fully qualified Equine Dental Technician, working in the UK and associated with the BAEDT (British Association of Equine Dental Technicians).


The problem

Now in my experience most horse owners have a preference to who they let near their horse's teeth, whether it's a Dental Technician, vet or sometimes even a friend, because "he's good with horses" or "the rest of the yard uses him". However as a responsible horse owner you need to make sure that anyone treating your horse is appropriately qualified to ensure the welfare of your horse, as Equine Dentistry is so much more complex than just taking off the sharp edges.

Dentists tools

As a qualified Equine Dental Technician I often get asked questions like, "My horse is in great condition, eats happily and doesn't show any pain so why do I need to spend money to get my horse's teeth checked?" The simple answer is horses hide the pain. Just because there's no obvious pain, no pain check again!! Every horse should be checked at least once a year even without any signs of a dental problem.


5 signs your horse needs the dentist

Five of the most obvious and serious signs that your horse needs to see a dentist are:

1. Quidding, which mean your horse spitting or dropping out partially chewed hay or other feed.

2. Facial swellings.

3. Changes in behaviour or resistance to the bit when ridden.

4. Weight loss.

5. Bad breath, which can indicate trapped or decaying feed suck in the mouth.


However there are many more signs including:

6. Head shaking, this could be due to bitting or dental issues.

7. Pouching food, storing food in the cheeks like a hamster.

8. Long fiber like hair appearing in their droppings.

9. Colic.

10. Choke, where food gets stuck in their throat.

11. Lack of appetite or refusing to eat.

12. Excessive salivation.


That being said, it is essential and more beneficial for a horse to have regular dental treatment from an early age to prevent it ever getting to the stage where the above signs are noticed.

Ian at work

Why do horses need regular dental work you ask?

Horses teeth grow throughout their life continually erupt pushing out 2 to 3 mm of fresh tooth per year (called hypsodont). Horses evolved as grazing animals so their teeth are so important to them, and showing signs of dental pain in particular would make them more of a target for prey animals if they were in the wild. Horses can have up to 44 permanent teeth, and in the first few years of life baby teeth, which is why they should have regular dental checks at an early age, equally as important as when they are in the last few years of their life. Problems in horse teeth can include tooth decay, fractured teeth, displacements, feed packing, extra or missing teeth, ulceration to the soft tissue, over growths, and the list goes on. Equine dentistry is a fascinating and unique world because every horse/pony is mouth is different, you never know what you’re going to be presented with. 


Equine Dentistry is not a luxury it’s basic equine care.

Written by Ian Hargreaves Equine Dentistry 😊

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