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Common Equine Dental Issues and Their Treatment

Close up of a thoroughbred horse

Dental diseases are among the five most prevalent health conditions in the North American horse population. At least 70% of adult horses in Canada suffer from one or more dental issues.

Equine dental issues may not sound like a big deal, but they are extremely painful. Dental pain can significantly reduce a horse's quality of life- not to mention their usefulness to their owner.

Preventing the pain of dental problems in horses starts with understanding the most common types. Read on to learn some of the most common oral issues affecting adult horses today. 

Sharp Enamel Points

The most common equine dental issue happens when the outside edge of the tooth enamel grows into a sharp point. These sharp enamel points most commonly happen to upper and lower cheek teeth.

When left untreated, these sharp points can cause painful cuts to the tongue or cheek, especially when chewing.

Dental Calculus

Calculus is a hard, smelly coating that forms when plaque is not scraped away from teeth. It consists of hardened minerals that protect underlying bacteria and germs from being washed away by saliva.

Without seeing a veterinarian, calculus can lead to equine tooth decay. The horse's teeth may then need extracting to prevent the decay from spreading. 

Gingival Recession

Gingivitis is the medical term for gum disease. In its early stages, you can recognize signs like swollen or red gum tissue. Over time, the gums may start to separate or recede from the horse's teeth.

Treatment can reverse gingivitis, especially in its early stages. If not, gum infections, ulcers, and periodontitis may result.

Periodontal Pockets

If you don't seek veterinary care for your horse's gingivitis, you leave room for the infection to progress to periodontitis. The hallmark of periodontitis is periodontal pockets, which may allow the infection to spread to the tooth root.

Eventually, periodontal pockets become so large that they can no longer hold teeth in place. The outcome may be tooth loss, which can cause future complications like jawbone damage or new periodontal infections.


Ramps occur when the back cheek teeth grow abnormally, limiting the horse's jaw's movement from side to side. In the immediate term, ramps can impact chewing or cause problems with the temporomandibular joint.

If the horse does not receive a treatment like floating, ramps may continue to grow, resulting in extremely large, sharp teeth that can make eating and exercising very painful.

Wave Mouth

Wave mouth happens when a horse's bite is abnormal, causing uneven wear and tear. Waves are a common cause of horse dental pain and may also result in teeth or jaw misalignment, tooth damage, and tooth loss.

Related to this condition are step mouth and hooks. They are also caused by an irregular bite. Hooks, in particular, often cause ramps as a complication.

Equine Dental Care in High River, Alberta

Points, calculus, gingivitis, periodontitis, ramps, and waves are the most common dental issues that affect horses. Without prompt treatment, these issues may worsen, leading to complications over time.

Are you searching for a veterinarian near you offering equine dental services? Highview Animal Clinic offers quick and effective Power Floating services to the High River area. Call Highview Animal Clinic to schedule an appointment.

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