Dental Checks | Information

November 2019

Who should examine my horse’s teeth?

There are two key people who will be suitably qualified to check your horse’s teeth:

  • A veterinary surgeon, ideally equine specific, trained in modern dentistry. In the cases of advanced procedures, your horse may be referred to a vet who specialises in equine dentistry.
  • A qualified Equine Dental Technician (EDT) who is registered with the British Association of Equine Dental Technicians (BAEDT) or category 2 members of the World Wide Association of Equine Dentists (WWAED). There may be instances when an EDT will have to request a veterinary surgeon to attend for example to sedate the horse, or to refer to when more invasive treatment is required. To find an EDT in your area, visit the BAEDT or WWAED websites.

It is important to be aware that there are many ‘equine dentists’ who do not have sufficient qualifications. As a result serious problems could be missed or ineffective treatment given to your horse which could have serious implications in the future. 

At what age should I start getting my horse’s teeth checked?

Wolf teethGetting your horse's teeth checked a minimum of once a year from when they are a foal (to make sure the teeth are aligned and erupting correctly), will go a long way to ensuring they have the healthiest teeth leading into their older years. The prevalence of periodontal (inflammatory) disease increases with age but can be prevented with routine dental examinations.

It is especially important to have your horse’s teeth checked before introducing the bit for the first time. The presence of any wolf teeth has the potential to cause interference and discomfort. It is important the horse has a pain-free experience otherwise they may become difficult to have a bridle put on if they associate this action as causing discomfort or pain.

Arrow indicating the wolf tooth

If you have recently purchased a horse it is sensible to have their teeth checked as soon as possible. The history of the horse may be unknown to you and it is important to identify any problems as soon as possible.

What happens at the dental visits?

Your horse is best stabled and relaxed for a dental visit. Arrive early and make sure the stable is clean and tidy. Don’t give a feed before the visit. The vet or Equine Dental Technican will need water; preferably warm water is beneficial in the winter. The routine for the procedure is normally as follows:

  • Examination of the teethYour vet / EDT will meet you and your horse and ask some questions including age, veterinary and dental history, if there are any problems, ridden performance and temperament. Your horse should be vaccinated for tetanus. The details should be filled in on a chart, either paper or electronic.
  • A little sedative may be given. Do not be concerned about this or feel this is somehow wrong or unusual. Dental examinations, just like we would expect are not always comfortable – especially if pain is present. Instruments used for examination may be sharp and potentially dangerous. Your horse will not want painful areas touched or examined and they can easily be missed. EDTs cannot legally sedate, and will have to proceed without. If necessary, a vet may have to be called as well.
  • Washing out the horses mouthThe whole horse is checked, followed by a close inspection of the head. The incisors are examined, with palpation of the soft tissues between the incisors and cheek teeth.
  • A mouth speculum (‘gag’) is placed, and the mouth opened. The mouth is washed out thoroughly. The head may be placed on a head-stand.
  • A thorough examination is carried out – looking with a bright head light, palpating all the structures and recording the findings on the chart. A dental mirror should always be used. Dental picks and probes are also used to check for gaps, cavities and other diseases. Findings are recorded on the chart and discussed with the owner at the end of the examination.
  • Treatment of sharp points, focal overgrowths of individual teeth and general uneven wear is performed using either hand rasps or motorised instruments. Special training is always required for motorised instruments, but when used by qualified people* they are very safe and efficient. (*
  • The mouth is rinsed and examined again. Further rasping may be performed. 
  • Speculum is removed, incisors are checked again, ensuring good cheek tooth occlusion (contact between the teeth).
  • Treatment is recorded on the chart and recommendations for follow-up are discussed with the owner or carer.

Find out more information

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The benefits of regular dental checks

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Signs of Dental Issues

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In collaboration with Chris Pearce MRCVS and the team at Equine Dental Clinic Ltd

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