Horses, in fact, can have up to 44 teeth. For dentistry purposes, a quadrant numbering
system was introduced to make it easy to identify those teeth.
On the chart you will see the incisors are at positions 1, 2 and 3. The canine teeth are at position 4 and wolf teeth,
if they have them they are at position 5. The large grinding teeth are at positions 6 to 11: 6 to 8 being pre-molars and 9 to 11 being molars.
Ideally, your dentist will not need to perform involved dentistry on your horse unless it
has a serious dental issue, usually caused by conformation problems or by an accident.
The majority of dental work on horses should be maintenance work, just ensuring that
the mouth is balanced to allow proper chewing of food.
The Equine Eating Action
When a horse eats, they nip the grass or pull hay from their nets with their incisors. The food is then moved backwards to the molars. The food is rolled during the chewing action and moved backwards along the molar arcade whilst being chewed.
If the horses mouth is balanced and working correctly then the food particles should end up somewhere in the region of 3mm in length. If this chewing action happens as it should, the horse will gain the optimum benefits from the food.
If the mouth has become unbalanced, i.e. the grinding of the molars is not as it should be, the food will not be broken down properly and the horse could begin to lose condition.
In more severe cases improperly chewed food can lead to stomach conditions like colic.
The incisors do not usually need attention as a rule. If the dentist ensures that the
molars meet as they should then the incisors will naturally come together. However, if
the work on the molars has to be more extreme then the incisors may need to be
reduced in order to ensure that they are not holding the molars apart.
Sometimes you may notice that your horse has developed small hooks on the number three incisors.
As the chewing action of the horse is a sideways chewing action, the hooks could stop the chewing action from happening properly, which would mean that the food would not be
broken down as it should be.
These hooks can be addressed very easily with your dentist rasping or filing them away.
Common Incisor defects are shown in the following images; parrot mouth, cribbing damage, damaged incisor and an asymmetrical jaw:-
Healthy mouth equals healthy horse - For mor interesting facts about your horse's teeth click here