Whole horse clinic san marcos tx

The examination of the oral cavity and thus the teeth of the horse by the veterinarian, like the regular wormer cures and vaccinations, are an essential part of preventive health care. It protects against costly diseases that are triggered by tooth damage.

Evolution and physiology

The ancestors of our horses lived as herd animals in spacious steppe landscapes. The diet consisted mainly of grass, which was consumed constantly - up to 20 hours a day. So the bit is highly specialized. The front incisors of the upper and lower jaw are used to cut off short, nutritious grasses that can be felt by the lips. Adhering minerals (sand and silicates), which can be harder than the tooth enamel, are also absorbed. The roughage ingested is ground up between the molars, saliva-coated and then swallowed as a pulp. Opened in this way, the intestinal bacteria can digest and break down the ingested cellulose and make it usable for the horse's organism.
In order to be usable for the intestinal bacteria and thus for the horse, the roughage must be sufficiently shredded.
An indication of this is the length of the fibers in horse manure, which are on average 4 mm long and should not exceed 2 cm in length.


The normally developed, adult horse teeth consist of 36 teeth in the mare and 40 teeth in the stallion or gelding. The males also have 4 stallion teeth that lie between the incisors and molars (also about 30% of the mares).
The dentition consists of 12 incisors, 6 each in the upper and lower jaw and 24 molars. In each jaw branch there are 6 molars above and below, right and left, which are divided into 3 molars and 3 pre-molars.
The horse's teeth are long-crowned, which means that they push up 2-3 mm annually in order to compensate for the wear and tear caused by the grinding processes - different from short-crowned teeth (e.g. in humans), which are coated with tooth enamel. They don't wear out and - if you will - don't push.
However, the stallion teeth mentioned above are an exception. They are similar to the teeth of omnivores and carnivores. They are crowned with enamel and do not wear out. Reason: The stallion's teeth are not used for ingesting or chopping up food, but for defense or as a weapon in disputes about hierarchy.
Foals are usually born without incisors, after 6 days the inner milk incisors (forceps) break through, after 6 weeks the central incisors follow and after 6 months the outer canines.
The milk teeth are white and their chewing surface is longer than the height of the tooth - compared to the permanent teeth, which are yellowish and highly rectangular.
The change of teeth to the permanent set of teeth begins with the incisors at the age of 2.5 years with the forceps, the middle teeth change at the age of 3.5 years and finally with the change of the canines at the age of 4.5 years, the adult incisors are complete .
In male horses, the permanent stallion teeth erupt at the age of 4-6 years. The milk molars erupt at birth or within the first few weeks of life. The first to third deciduous molars are replaced by the larger permanent premolar teeth at the age of 3 or 4 years. The molars (wisdom teeth) behind it, which are the same as permanent teeth, erupt around the age of 1.2 and 3.5 years.
It follows that in the 3rd-5th Age of a horse's 20 molars, in addition to the 12 incisors and the 4 possible stallion teeth. This is partly associated with pain - especially since it falls during a period in which the training and use of the animals usually begins.
A regular, six-monthly control of these development processes can prevent performance losses and consequently "misunderstandings between humans and animals" in the event of refusal in training.

Dental problems

In horse breeding, little attention is paid to the dental health of the parent animals, other aspects such as conformation, performance or even color were in the foreground of the breeding. As a result of domestication, there was no genetic selection in this area - and deformities are therefore more common: overbite is typical. The protrusion of the incisors, but also the molars, leads to uneven wear of the teeth and thus to the formation of tooth hooks on the first premolar tooth above and at the same time also on the last molar tooth below, as the chewing ridges are shifted longitudinally.
This leads to pain when the hooks injure the lining of the opposite jaw while chewing. Frequent consequences are eating disorders and resistance when riding.
The same applies to the so-called wolf teeth. They are located in the upper jaw in front of the premolar teeth - often hidden under the mucous membrane. They have to be removed if they interfere with the position of the teeth. But there are also additional or missing teeth, as well as malformations of the tooth substance. When teeth erupt or change teeth, malfunctions can occur. Baby teeth can jam or wedge newly erupting teeth. Permanent teeth then follow the slightest resistance and grow in a different, and therefore wrong, direction, which can lead to swelling of the upper or lower jawbone or even to the formation of tooth fistulas.
Jammed milk tooth caps should be removed in good time. Wedged erupting teeth must be ground so that they can develop in the correct direction.
In order to be able to demand high performance from sport horses in particular, they receive appropriately concentrated feed: A 20-hour feed intake and a hay bump do not match the demands made on sport horses.
Less, but more energetic, food leads to shorter eating times and thus less wear and tear on the teeth.
Since the upper jaw is wider than the lower jaw, fewer chewing strokes result in razor-sharp tooth tips on the outside of the upper jaw teeth and on the inside of the lower jaw teeth. This can lead to painful injuries to the lining of the cheek and the tongue. In addition to the pain that bothers you while riding, and this also leads to reduced chewing of the food: This can be recognized by the coarse-fiber balls of manure. The fibers are longer than 2 cm. "Whole oats" can sometimes be seen in the droppings. The consequences are increased feed demand, poor performance and emaciation. Since these tooth tips can be the cause of a wide variety of problems, they should be rasped.
In adult horses, it is advisable to routinely examine the oral cavity once a year and to have the teeth treated if the findings are appropriate.


If your horse hits its head, does not accept the bit or suddenly becomes unridden, this is an indication of dental problems or pain. When eating, symptoms such as littering of fodder, excessive salivation and chewing of the wrap (i.e. chewed hay can be found in finger-length "sausages" at the eating place) appear.
The horse's general condition deteriorates, it loses weight and the coat becomes dull. Colic or blocked throat can also be indications.
Further symptoms are strong smelling, usually one-sided nasal discharge, increased circumference of the jaw and bridge of the nose, unpleasant smell from the mouth and changes in the consistency of the feces with long fibers and whole oat kernels.

Special features in old age

The horse's teeth grow until around the age of 7, after which they become shorter due to permanent wear (approx. 3 mm annually). Depending on the constitution, the quality of the food, etc., the teeth will last about 20 years after the end of their growth, after which they can fall out. The consequences are stairs, steps or waves in the aging horse's teeth, because where teeth have already fallen out, the opposite tooth is no longer worn. In order to ensure adequate comminution of the food or a normal chewing process, these teeth must be ground to long, not worn teeth and a chewing surface that is as uniform as possible must be produced.
The bit of the aging horse should be checked every six months if abnormalities are found.

Dental treatments

Due to their veterinary qualifications, our veterinarians are your contacts for both dental prophylaxis and the treatment of dental diseases in your horse.

At the beginning