Frequently asked questions
Why do horses need dental rasping?
Domestication of the horse has altered management and diet when compared to the wild horse. Horses teeth continuely erupt (approximately 2-3mm a year) and with their diet in the wild they would wear down naturally by grazing for circa 18 hours a day on coarse, silica based forage.
The stabled horse has an altered head position when eating with the introduction of haynets and is often only able to graze for a limited time a day on softer grass. Many horses are also fed hard feed which does not require them to use their full range of movement to grind the food and therefore they are not able to wear down their teeth as they would in the wild (reduction of occlusal wear) and this leads to problems such as sharp enamel points, hooks, ramps, changes in balance / angles to the dental arcades which if left untreated will progress in to advanced painful dental issues. Sharp enamel points alone can cause painful damage and injury to the soft tissues in the mouth.
How often do horses need dental check ups?
We commonly recommend a dental check up every 6 months to ensure your horse is pain free from any dental issues. In some cases when a horse has good dentition, alignment and husbandry to support them, then an annual check up and rasp would be recommended.
For horses up to the age of 6 years old we recommend a dental visit every 6 months. This is due to the mouth being very dynamic until this age with deciduous teeth (baby teeth) shedding and their permanent teeth erupting through. The bone plates in the head normally finally fuse by the time they are 6 years old. The earlier you can introduce a horse to the experience of dental care will also make it a more relaxed experience for a naturally wary prey animal.
Older horses also need more regular check ups as they are prone to dental problems as their teeth come to the end of their useful life. Due to the tapered shape of the teeth, as the teeth wear down as they grind their food, the horse can become prone to diastemas (gaps between the teeth) which if left untreated, can develop into painful conditions such gingival pocketing which can then lead to periodontal disease.
Does dental rasping hurt?
No. A maintenance check and rasp should be a pain free experience. The nerves and blood vessels in the teeth are situated in the pulp chamber (much like humans) which sits below the tooth surface. So rasping the enamel and cementum surrounding the tooth will not cause discomfort. Horses are naturally wary animals and as the experience is unnatural and non routine for them they can become worried, but most will settle down for dental care without the need for sedation with the right approach and support. We recommend introducing them to dental care as early possible (just like you would the farrier) to give them the best chance to understand the situation and alleviate any fears.
What are the signs that horses may need dental care?
Abnormal chewing action
Bit evasion & resistance
Bridling problems or head shy
Unbalanced or one sided when ridden
Unilateral (one sided) nasal discharge
Long fibre in droppings
What is an EDT?
An Equine Dental Technician (EDT) is a lay person that practices dentistry on equines. They are not veterinarians, but should have a good understanding of equine biology and be experienced horse people.
EDTs are often referred to as horse ‘dentists’, but legally only registered human ‘dentists’ can use the term, therefore we are titled technicians.