Horse teeth grow continuously. As they grow, fall out and wear down, a variety of equine dental conditions may develop. A general knowledge of equine dentistry and horse dental problems will help you better understand what’s going on in your horse’s mouth.
Horses have two sets of teeth, deciduous (baby) and permanent (adult). Horses have a set of deciduous premolars and incisors. All the other teeth come in as permanent teeth.
Incisors: The front teeth, just inside the lips. Used to grasp, nip and pull grass. If you’ve ever been bitten by a horse, you’re already familiar with incisors.
Cheek teeth: A general term used to indicate all the grinding and chewing teeth, the premolars and molars.
Premolars: The first three sets of large cheek teeth, top and bottom jaws, used for grinding. There is a full deciduous set followed by a full permanent set.
Molars: The second three sets of large cheek teeth, top and bottom jaws, used for grinding. There are no deciduous molars, they erupt as permanent teeth.
Canines: Usually found only in geldings or stallions, but sometimes seen in mares. These are the teeth that sit behind the incisors, often mistaken for the wolf teeth.
Wolf Teeth: The first premolar, usually found right before the first grinding tooth. Looks like a little fang and interferes with biting. These horse teeth can be present in the upper and lower jaw and cause pain and discomfort when the horse is ridden with the bit. They are usually removed.
Blind Wolf Teeth: Wolf Teeth that have not erupted through the gum line. These teeth, depending on their location, can cause extreme discomfort while the horse is ridden with the bit. These horse teeth can be found by a veterinarian or dental technician by feeling the gum tissue. They are often removed.
Cap: A term for a baby tooth as it sits in place on the permanent tooth ready to erupt. The loss of baby teeth as the new permanent teeth erupt to take their place is called “Shedding Caps”.
Crown: The portion of the tooth that gradually erupts into the mouth.
Eruption: The movement of the tooth crown out from the bone of the jaw into the horse’s mouth.
Arcade: Refers to a row of horse teeth.
Occlusion: The contact points of opposing teeth; occlusal surface refers to the chewing or biting surfaces.
Mastication: The act of chewing or grinding food.
Malocclusion: General term for bite problems or abnormal contact between opposing teeth. There are several kinds of maloccusions:-
Ventral Curvature: Incisors that resemble a smiley face.
Dorsal Curvature: Incisors that resemble a frown.
Wave Mouth: Cheek teeth that are wavy rather that flat.
Wave Incisors: Incisors that are wavy rather than flat.
Step Teeth: Teeth that are significantly taller than the other teeth, and stick out like a step.
Over Long Incisors: Pretty much as it sounds: the incisors are too long. This is caused by lack of wear from eating hay rather than grazing. When the horse’s incisors are too long he cannot chew effectively with his cheek teeth, this also puts stress on the temporomandibular joint which can lead to TMJ syndrome.
Parrot Mouth: This is a layman’s term for a severe over bite, known as inferior brachygnathism.
Monkey Mouth: This is a layman’s term for a severe under bite, known as inferior prognathism.
Your veterinarian or equine dentist can show you how to examine your horse’s teeth so that you can spot problems early. Keep an eye on your horse’s oral health to prevent pain, eating difficulties and possible tooth loss.