Young Horse Grazing
Based on the emergence and subsequent shedding of a foal’s teeth, it is recommended that the first equine dental treatment be scheduled at age 1 year.
A foal’s first teeth, 12 temporary premolars, have erupted at birth or do so within a week, as do the central deciduous incisors. Middle incisors emerge at 4-6 weeks and the corners erupt between the sixth and ninth month of life.
Just as important as the eruption phase is also the shedding/extraction process: Central deciduous incisors should shed (or be extracted) generally at 2 years 6 months. The lateral (middle) incisors should shed at 3 years 6 months. The corners should shed at 4 years 6 months.
Timely shedding and/or extraction will alleviate severe oral pain in horses. When two or more teeth try to erupt in the same position at the same time, damage and decay can occur to the permanent incisors as food and bacteria will be wedged. In more dramatic situations, the permanent incisors will become impacted, erupt through the hard palate, or emerge sideways from the gum.
Wolf teeth should be extracted no later than your foal’s first birthday. Retention of wolf teeth into later years may result in biting problems because of inflammation or the wolf teeth becoming ossified (connected to neighboring teeth), resulting in oral pain and discomfort.
Male horses normally have 4 canine teeth or fighting teeth. The lower canines erupt at 4 years of age, with the uppers erupting at age 5. A majority of the time, the canines pierce through the gums on their own. If this doesn’t happen, inflammation may occur, requiring surgical incisions to relieve pressure pain and drain pus build up.
Female horses do NOT have canines. However, in some instances (possibly because of too much masculine DNA), canines attempt to erupt or are present below the gum level. The exposed teeth should be surgically extracted; the sub-gingival teeth may remain if not sensitive or painful when touched.
After the first complete equine dental treatment (normally around 1 year of age), horses under 10 years old should be treated every 6 months. Regular dental care will ensure timely shedding/extraction and keep your horse free of oral pain, allowing him to grind food properly and perform to his full potential.
-- Dr. Dennis S. Chapman, PhD, EqDT, STABLE 2 STABLE Equine Dental Practice P.C.