Adult horses typically have between 36 and 44 teeth. The exact number can vary depending on factors such as age, sex, and breed.

Here is a general breakdown:

  • Incisors (front teeth): Adult horses have 12 incisors – six on the top and six on the bottom.
  • Canines (often called “bridle teeth”): These are usually present in male horses and, occasionally, in mares. A horse may have zero to four canines.
  • Premolars and Molars (cheek teeth): Adult horses typically have a total of 24 premolars and molars – six on the top and six on the bottom on each side of the mouth.
  • Wolf Teeth: Small, often problematic, teeth called wolf teeth can develop in the upper and lower jaw in front of the first molars. A horse may have zero to four wolf teeth.

Horses have a hypsodont dentition, meaning their teeth have long crowns that continually erupt and wear down throughout their lives. This adaptation is suited to their natural grazing behaviour and diet.

Horses typically start losing their deciduous teeth, commonly known as baby or milk teeth, at around 2.5 years of age. This process continues until the horse is approximately 5 years old. During this time, permanent teeth gradually replace the deciduous teeth. The shedding of baby teeth and the eruption of permanent teeth is a natural part of a horse’s dental development.

Equine dentistry involves the care and treatment of horses’ teeth to maintain oral health and address dental issues that may affect their overall well-being. Regular dental check-ups and procedures are essential for ensuring proper chewing, digestion, and performance in horses.

Equine dentistry is crucial for several reasons and can experience various dental issues, including:

Sharp Points:

Sharp points in horses’ teeth are areas where the tooth enamel has developed into sharp projections. These points typically occur on the outer edges of the upper molars and the inner edges of the lower molars. They can result from uneven wear during the natural grinding motion of the teeth or may be associated with dental abnormalities.

Sharp points can be problematic for horses as they can cause discomfort and pain during chewing. Additionally, these points can interfere with the proper alignment and function of the jaw. Regular dental check-ups by a qualified equine dental technician are essential to identify and address sharp points through a procedure known as “floating.” Floating involves filing or rasping the teeth to remove the sharp edges, promoting a more comfortable and functional bite for the horse.

Hooks and Ramps:

Hooks refer to sharp points that develop on the edges of the premolar and molar teeth in horses. These points can occur on the upper and lower jaw and may result from uneven wear during chewing. Hooks can interfere with the normal grinding motion of the teeth, causing discomfort and difficulty in chewing.

Ramps are elongated, uneven surfaces that can form on the teeth, particularly in the premolar and molar areas. Like hooks, ramps can develop due to irregular wear patterns. They may create imbalances in the horse’s bite, affecting the proper functioning of the jaw during chewing.

Both hooks and ramps can lead to dental issues, including pain, difficulty eating, and altered behaviour.

Wave Mouth:

A wave mouth in horses refers to an irregularity in the alignment of the teeth, creating a wave-like pattern when the horse’s mouth is viewed from the side. This condition is a form of dental imbalance where the teeth do not wear evenly, resulting in an abnormal contour.

In a wave mouth, some teeth are higher than others, leading to the characteristic wave appearance. This irregular wear pattern can affect the horse’s ability to chew food properly, leading to difficulties in grinding and digestion.


In horses, overcrowding refers to a situation where there is insufficient space in the jaw for all the teeth to align properly. This can result in teeth becoming misaligned, overlapping, or growing in abnormal positions. Overcrowding can lead to issues such as sharp points, hooks, or uneven wear, affecting the horse’s ability to chew and causing discomfort.


Malocclusions are dental misalignments in horses, where the upper and lower teeth do not meet correctly when the horse’s mouth is closed. This can lead to problems such as hooks, ramps, or uneven wear on the teeth. Malocclusions may be congenital or develop over time due to factors like uneven tooth growth or wear. They can impact a horse’s ability to chew, resulting in difficulties with feeding and potential dental issues.

Both overcrowding and malocclusions require attention from equine dental technicians to address these dental abnormalities, ensuring the horse’s oral health and well-being. Regular dental check-ups are essential for early detection and management.

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

Dental Caries:

Tooth decay can occur in horses, affecting the enamel and dentin. The presence of dental caries can lead to pain, discomfort, and difficulty eating.

Prevention involves maintaining a balanced diet, regular dental check-ups, and addressing dental issues promptly. Equine dental technician can provide appropriate guidance and treatment if dental caries is suspected in a horse.

Wolf Teeth:

Wolf teeth in horses are small, pointed teeth that typically appear in front of the first upper molar. These teeth are vestigial and have no functional purpose in the horse’s chewing process. Wolf teeth are more common in the upper jaw, but they can also occur in the lower jaw.

Not all horses have wolf teeth and these teeth can vary in size and shape. In some cases, wolf teeth may interfere with the bit during riding, causing discomfort for the horse.

It’s common practice for equine dental technicians to examine and, if necessary, remove wolf teeth, especially if they are causing issues with the bit or if the horse is exhibiting signs of discomfort. Removal is typically done before a horse is started under saddle to prevent potential problems.

Equine Odontoclastic Tooth Resorption and Hypercementosis (EOTRH)

Is a dental condition observed in horses. It primarily affects the incisors and occasionally the canine teeth. In EOTRH, there is a process of resorption (breakdown) of the tooth structure, particularly at the cementoenamel junction, accompanied by compensatory hypercementosis (excessive production of dental cement). This results in changes to the affected teeth’s shape, mobility, and sometimes pain.

Signs of EOTRH may include swelling of the jaw, increased tooth mobility, reluctance to eat, and behavioural changes. Diagnosis typically involves a dental examination and X-rays taken by a Veterinarian, and treatment may involve extracting affected teeth to relieve pain and prevent further complications.

Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease in horses involves inflammation and infection of the structures surrounding the teeth, such as the gums, periodontal ligament, and the alveolar bone. This condition can be caused by a build-up of dental plaque and tartar, leading to bacterial infection and subsequent inflammation.

Signs of periodontal disease in horses may include:

  • Swollen or Bleeding Gums: Inflamed gums that may bleed during eating or when touched.
  • Halitosis (Bad Breath):Foul-smelling breath can be an indicator of oral health issues.
  • Difficulty Eating: Horses may show reluctance to eat, drop food, or display discomfort while chewing.
  • Weight Loss: Due to challenges in chewing and eating.
  • Head Tossing or Mouth Sensitivity: Behavioural changes indicating pain or discomfort in the oral cavity.

Regular dental check-ups help identify and address these issues, ensuring the horse’s oral health and overall performance. Horses should generally undergo dental care at least once a year if not more frequently. However, the frequency can vary based on factors such as the horse’s age, diet, and dental health and performance discipline that the horse takes part in. Younger horses, seniors and horses whose diet is high grain may need more frequent check-ups.

Consult with a qualified equine dental technician to establish an appropriate dental care schedule tailored to your horse’s specific needs.