C.J.Equine Dentistry
Common equine dental problems
Sharp points

A diet high in concentrates has been shown by scientific research not to promote complete side to side movement required by the horse’s natural mastication cycle. This reduces the wear across all the cheek teeth allowing the development of sharp points to develop on the outside edge of the upper cheek teeth and inside edge of the lower cheek teeth. This is a very common dental problem seen by equine dental technicians and removal of these sharp points constitutes the majority of a routine dental treatment.
Excessive Transverse Ridges (ETR)

Teeth should naturally have ridges to increase surface area and aid in the physical breakdown of the fibre. However sometimes, some or all the ridges become more dominant than they naturally should be. Transverse ridges are a series of washboard like ridges that occur across the grinding surface of the teeth, if these ridges become too exaggerated or irregular they will need to be reduced to a normal level. ETRs can restrict the movement of the Temporomandibular joint, forcing the horse to open its mouth to allow the anterior/posterior (forwards/backwards) and lateral (side to side) movement of the mandible. This may sound unimportant but the correct function and movement of the mandible and Temporomandibular joint is vital for the horse during mastication. Whilst most would agree that normal ridging is important in the grinding function of the teeth, if these ridges become too exaggerated they will need to be reduced to a normal level.
CopyrightHooks and Ramps

Hooks and ramps develop due to a misalignment of the molar arcades. This is commonly the result of an over-bite or under-bite (parrot mouth or sow mouth) of the incisor arcades. The part of a tooth which is not in contact with an opposing tooth will not be worn down as it should do. This is how hooks become dominant over time. Hooks can restrict the anterior/posterior and lateral movement of the mandible, and large hooks can cause extreme discomfort often leading to quidding (dropping a bolus of food), weight loss, choke and even colic. Biting trauma can be caused by the soft tissue becoming pinched between the bit and the 1st lower cheek tooth.

This term describes uneven wear of the molar arcades creating a wave like affect to the grinding table. This problem usually comes from a lack of dental attention as a young horse, impacted molars, which are slow or irregular in eruption or retained caps. Wave mouth in horses seen at a young enough age, this problem can be corrected if not too severe. However in aged horses this condition usually has to be managed and prevented from getting worse.

A step occurs when the clinical crown of one cheek tooth is longer than those in the rest of the arcade. This usually occurs when a horse is either missing a cheek tooth, or is opposed to a damaged or impacted cheek tooth. The step in the molar arcade can restrict the lateral excursion, and anterior/ posterior movement of the mandible. The step should be checked on a regular basis and reduced as necessary.

Diastemata are pathological spaces between adjacent teeth of the same type. These spaces allow food to accumulate between the teeth, which ferment and can lead to periodontal disease. These diastemata may be secondary to other conditions e.g. displacements or ETR. Treatment is dependent on the severity of the periodontal disease and the causing factors. The mouth may need balancing, or the diastemata may need to be flushed out or more advanced dental treatment may need to be completed.
Deciduous Caps (Baby Teeth)
CopyrightDeciduous teeth (baby teeth) erupt into place between birth and 6 months of age. They are then shed and replaced with permanent teeth between 2.5 and 5 years of age. Some of the cheek teeth termed as molars come straight through as permanent teeth and do not have caps. Sometimes there are problems when shed these deciduous caps, where the caps are retained and the permanent teeth are unable to erupt into the correct position as shown in the picture below. In these cases the deciduous caps will need to be removed to allow the permanent tooth to migrate to the correct position.
CopyrightWhen these caps are shedding they become loose and it can be very painful for the horse when eating. It also could leave sharp spikes embedded in the gum which are very irritating for the horse and need to be removed.
Incisor Malocclusions
CopyrightThe incisors are used for prehension (grasping and tearing) of the grass. In a normal mouth, the upper and lower incisors will normally meet horizontally and match evenly. However sometimes there is a problem, either development or congenital which can affect the way the incisors meet together. Some common problems are a smile (where the incisors meeting line curves upwards), a slant (where one side of the upper or lower incisors is more dominant than the other and the opposing arcade matches up), parrot mouth (the upper incisors are forward of the lower incisors and therefore do not occlude or wear against each other) and sow mouth (the lower incisors are forward of the upper incisors and do not wear correctly). All these malocclusions can restrict the movement of the lower jaw and therefore compromising the mastication cycle efficiency.