The horse’s teeth can be separated into two types. The incisors or front teeth are used tocut grass and hay, while the molars or cheek teeth are used to grind the food down.
The cheek teeth have a long body and small roots and continuously erupt. Eruption times are fairly predictable and commonly used in the ageing of horses.
The rate of growth is about the same as the tooth surface is worn away by the opposite tooth. This keeps the grinding surfaces of both the upper and lower teeth in good condition and firmly opposed to each other. The only teeth that don’t wear continuously are canines or tushes, located between the molar and incisors, and the wolf teeth, if present
The wolf teeth are small (vestigial) teeth just in front of the first large cheek tooth on the upper jaw. They can cause biting problems and are routinely removed by vets.
The upper cheek teeth are wider than the lower ones and the lower jaw is narrower than the upper one. The way the jaws fit together can result in sharp edges developing on the outer edge of the upper teeth and the inner edge of the lower molars.
These sharp edges can cause ulcers on the cheeks (upper edges) and on the tongue (lower edges). This can lead to a difficulty or reluctance to eat – often with salivation and dropping of food from the mouth (quidding).
Sharp edges can be removed with a rasp by your vet or a qualified equine dental technician. Your horse’s teeth should be checked every six monthsto ensure problems do not get out of hand.
During tooth eruption, the new emerging tooth pushes the milk tooth out ahead of it and, sometimes, the temporary tooth sticks to the emerging new crown. It is probably more uncomfortable for the horse, rather than painful but can cause loss of appetite and difficulty with chewing.