Signs to look for

Signs that dental treatment is needed

Prevention is better than cure and with regular maintenance, most problems can be prevented. There are, however signs that there is a problem that needs attention. Keep an eye out for the following signals:

Horse's teeth worn down from grazing on sandy soil.

Horse’s teeth worn down from grazing on sandy soil.

The most obvious signs of dental trouble is a change in chewing habits:

  • The horse may dribble or drop feed out of its mouth while eating
  • They may ‘quid’ the food which is rolling the feed into balls rather than chewing and then dropping it on the ground
  • The horse could wash feed in his water bucket
  • They may hold their head to the side when eating
  • They may refuse to eat hard grain or bolt grain and lose condition
  • Horses may swallow before chewing is complete and this may lead to colic.

Physical signs may include;

  • the presence of excess saliva
  • halitosis (bad mouth odour)
  • swelling of the face or jaw
  • bleeding from the mouth
  • loss of physical condition; or
  • presence of whole grains in manure due to unsatisfactory chewing.

Bad oral health may also cause behavioural problems in horses such as;

  • tossing their head when being ridden
  • pulling to one side when ridden
  • increased resistance to the bridle
  • becoming nervous
  • lugging, rearing and being generally unsettled or unwilling to perform correctly or consistently.

It’s important to note that some horses will not show any outward signs that damaging dental conditions need treatment so please don’t be mislead to think that if none of these symptoms are showing, your horse does not require dentistry.

NOTE: around 20% of horses treated have been helped significantly with these symptoms, and 80% have been maintained. Treating a horse’s teeth never fixes a badly educated horse and they are creatures of habit so behavioural problems rarely change overnight.