Equine Tooth Talk: Straight from the Horses Mouth

People have been talking about horses? teeth forever. Horse owners always look at a horse’s pearly whites for secrets about the horse. They always hope that they aren?t looking a ?gift horse in the mouth? or that the horse isn?t ?long in the tooth.? What’s all the fuss about? Well, here it is ??straight from the horse’s mouth?!

Open Wide

Horses have a mouthful of teeth. In fact, their teeth take up more ?head room? than their brain does. By the time a horse is five years old, it may have between 36 and 44 permanent teeth.

Not Just a Sweet Tooth

Teeth are important for grazing, but horses use them to show affection, too, by nibbling on their buddies. They also rely on their chompers to scratch those hard to reach spots. Big and strong, a horse’s teeth and its strong jaw make for a powerful weapon. So beware!

Long in the Tooth

Horses? teeth continue to grow as they age?older horses have longer teeth. Beavers, squirrels, guinea pigs an rabbits are other species whose teeth grow throughout their lifetime.

Say Cheese

The shapes of animal teeth are related to diet. Carnivores (meat eaters), like wolves, tigers, cats and dogs, have lots of sharp canine teeth. Herbivores (plant eaters), like horses, have long front incisors that are good for snipping grass and large flat molars in the back for grinding and chewing.

Tooth Fairies for Foals

Like us, horses have two sets of teeth in their lifetime. By two weeks of age, foals have a mouthful of 16 baby teeth (a.k.a. milk teeth). By age five, the smaller baby teeth fall out and get replaced with bigger adult teeth.

Wear and Tear

The upper jaw of a horse is 30 percent wider than the lower jaw. Grinding food with a sideways motion, they wear down the surface of the molars, and every 12 months they need to have the excess enamel (sharp edges) filed off.

Say ?Ahhhhh? for Age

With a lot of practice, it’s possible to tell the rough age of a horse by the condition of its teeth. It’s not an exact science though. And horses are individuals; two horses of the same age may have different wear patterns.

Time for a Check Up

Like us humans, horses can develop a variety of dental problems, some of which may be very serious and require surgery. To ward off potential tooth trouble, horse health experts recommend that an equine dentist pay a visit to the barn once a year.

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