Horses are born with a finite amount of root and these roots push down into the mouth over the horse's lifetime, becoming reserve crown, and wearing / grinding continually as the horse chews his / her food. In young horses, the tooth roots fill their sinuses almost entirely in order to fit into their skulls, whereas in seniors these roots are significantly shorter.
Horses chew a lot of their food in a side-to-side grinding motion, which causes the teeth to wear down and will lead to the development of sharp points on the inner edges of the lower cheek teeth, and the outer edges of the upper cheek teeth. This can lead to erosions or ulcerations on the outer aspect of the tongue or the inner surfaces of the cheeks.
It is recommended to have dental check-ups performed routinely by a veterinarian, as many things can go wrong in a horse's mouth, not all of which are apparent to the owner.
Dental care is important in all life stages of the horse. Younger horses can develop sharp enamel points as mentioned above, retained deciduous / baby teeth or caps, eruption difficulties of adult teeth, wolf teeth interfering with bit comfort, etc. Older horses and seniors, due to more wear and tear on their teeth and diminishing roots, can develop uneven eruption of teeth leading to wave mouth, ramping, hooks, loose teeth, worn teeth, gingival and root infections, and insufficient grinding surfaces, etc. It is important not to forget about these ageing horses, as their dentition can become quite problematic if not monitored routinely.
The take-home message here is that in all age groups, concerns such painful sharp enamel points and overgrown hooks, uneven teeth, loose teeth (deciduous or adult), broken teeth, etc can cause pain and chewing difficulties, choke, colic, digestion difficulties and weight loss, as well as bitting issues and decreased performance. We recommend an annual examination of your horse's teeth, and floating of sharp points if needed, as well as correction of any other dental problems found.
Dr. Jason Brownridge performs a float procedure as part of a routine dental checkup