Last Updated on January 25, 2023
Teeth floating is an important part of the routine healthcare of horses, but how much does it cost to float a horses teeth? And what does this procedure involve?
As horse owners, we all know how important the health of our horse is to us. However, it is all too easy to overlook the importance of areas such as your horse’s teeth!
Your horse’s teeth need a regular examination and preventative treatment from an equine dental expert to prevent serious dental issues from occurring. Dental problems can be extremely debilitating for your horse, and cause a considerable amount of pain.
One of the most common dental problems in horses is uneven wearing of their teeth, due to the fact that they grind their feed in a circular motion. This can lead to painful issues such as misshapen or sharp teeth, which can cause extreme discomfort if not corrected with a float. Misshapen or unevenly worn teeth can cause cuts and sores inside the mouth, loss of teeth, and malnutrition.
But how much does it cost to float a horses teeth? And how often do you need to have it done?
Well, the important thing to remember is that teeth problems in horses can be difficult to see, and therefore easy to ignore. Skipping a routine dental examination and teeth floating is a false economy, as when left undetected, dental problems will get worse and become harder to resolve. In the long term this will cause an increased amount of pain to your horse, as well as ending up costing far more money than a routine dental float.
If you’re new to horse ownership, we’ve got everything you need to know about how to care for your horse’s teeth right here! We’ll answer all of the most common questions and concerns, including how much it costs to float a horses teeth.
What Does Floating A Horse’s Teeth Mean?
Horse teeth floating refers to the process where the sharp points on the surface of your horse’s teeth are removed. The file used to smooth out the edges is known as a “float.” These sharp points are caused by the circular motion that horses use to grind their feed, and they make it hard for your horse to eat or hold substances in its mouth.
There are two methods for floating. The power float, which is ran by power tools – (didn’t see that one coming did you?) is much faster. However, it does run the risk of over floating, where the horse’s teeth are filed down too far.
The alternative and more traditional method is to use a hand float, with which the points are manually removed. The risk with a hand float is the fear of under floating, or not having to remove enough of the points on a horse’s teeth. A hand float is also very difficult to complete with an uncooperative horse.
Nevertheless, both have their benefits, risks and you need to work with your chosen professional, to find what option your horse prefers.
Why Is Floating A Horse’s Teeth Important?
Many people don’t realize that horse’s teeth continue to erupt throughout their lifetime! The teeth responsible for grinding food – the molars and premolars – are large teeth that erupt very slowly, to compensate for wearing down of the grinding surface as the horse eats. This is a highly specialized physical adaptation that enables horses to chew and digest the large amount of grass and hay they need to survive.
Chewing of food is the first stage of the digestive process, and horses must chew their food sufficiently for it to digest properly. If the horse’s teeth do not have a suitable surface that can grind the food, the digestive process will be hindered. Horses that graze on grass as the majority of their food intake usually require less work on their teeth than horses that eat a hay and grain diet. The heavy fibers found in grass require more chewing and grinding, helping to maintain a functional grinding surface on the teeth.
The grinding surface of the teeth does need to be rough to crush food properly, but as the teeth grind against each other they can start to wear down unevenly. Horses chew their food in a circular motion, and if the jaws are not correctly aligned then some teeth may be worn down more than others. This can lead to sharp points on the edges of the teeth, or larger overgrowth of tooth at either end of the row of cheek teeth.
The good news is that a recent study revealed that regular dental care and floating improves the digestibility of the feed that your horse eats. Higher digestibility means your horse can get the maximum nutritional value from their food, and may also spell out lower feed costs for you! You can read more about that study here.
How Do Wild Horses Float Their Teeth?
You might now be wondering why wild horses don’t need their teeth floating, but there is a simple reason for this! Horses are anatomically designed to graze on rough forage, but when we domesticated them we made it far easier for them to find food. A domesticated horse gets a luxurious diet of lush grass and sweet meadow hay, while a wild horse must graze on tough grasses, brush, shrubs, and trees.
But while we’ve made lives very easy for our pet horses, the downside is that we’ve created problems by doing this! When a horse eats a diet that is easy to chew, the teeth do not wear down as evenly, and sharp points and overgrowths can occur. These problems are increased when we feed horses from a hay-net or hay-rack, as the jaw movement changes when a horse chews in this position.
In the wild, if a horse had dental problems, it would not be able to eat enough forage to survive. So, while dental problems in wild horses are less common than those in domesticated horses, they can often prove to be fatal.
Read more about How Do Wild Horses Float Their Teeth?
Can I Float My Horses Teeth Myself?
Floating a horses teeth should only ever be carried out by a qualified professional – depending on where you live, this may be your veterinarian, or an equine dental technician. This ensures that the person floating your horses teeth has undergone the necessary training to be able to assess and float your horses teeth correctly.
Many problems can be caused by an unqualified person attempting to float a horses teeth. Potential problems may be missed, leading to bigger problems further down the line. Overzealous floating may remove too much of the grinding surface of the tooth, making it impossible for the horse to chew food adequately. Injuries to the mouth may also be caused by incorrect use of dental floating tools.
When Should A Horse Have Its Teeth Floated?
Keeping your horse on a regular float schedule can be vital to their health and well-being. While some yearlings have been found to have points sharp enough to damage their cheeks and tongue, most horses start regular floats around two years old – especially if your horse is going into training for the first time.
Horses five to twenty years old should be floated at least once a year, while horses over twenty years of age should be examined every six months. And if your horse is known to have dental issues, or you notice any problems, you should have your horse’s teeth checked more often. As your horse gets older, check for loose teeth and other known issues related to aging.
It’s also important to remember that your horse’s teeth keep growing, on average, until they are thirty years old. Having a float done once or twice during their lifetime is not enough! Endeavor to keep your horse on a regular annual dental schedule, in order to prevent any issues from developing with their teeth.
Signs of Dental Problems? How often do we have to check our horse’s teeth?
Horses don’t always display signs of pain when it comes to their teeth, so it’s important to know and recognize the subtle signs of dental issues. Below are some of the most common signs that your horse has a dental issue:
- Foul-smelling breath
- Weight loss
- Nasal discharge
- Pus seeping from the sides of the cheek or below the jaw
- Ulcers on the tongue and cheek lining
- Refusal to accept the bit
- Head shaking
- Reddening of the gums (gingivitis)
- Packing of feed between teeth
- Broken or missing teeth
- Tilting of the head to one side while eating
- Dropping clumps of hay or grain from their mouth
- Dropping a lot of grain from their mouth while chewing
- Inability to chew feed
As stated earlier, horses under two years of age should have dental exams every six months, in an effort to correct any conformational issues such as over or under-bites when chewing. Horses in work below the age of twenty should be checked every six months, while those feeding on pasture should be checked once every year unless there are signs of discomfort. You should always have your horse’s teeth checked yearly, even if you don’t notice any problems.
Does Floating A Horse’s Teeth Hurt?
In a perfect world, floating a horses teeth should not hurt. The nerve is very low in the tooth, so removing points and making corrections will not cause pain to the horse. However, there are some parts of the examination and procedure that could cause your horse some discomfort.
After examining, if your horse is resistant, or attempts to chew aggressively during the procedure, they can place a tremendous amount of strain and stress on their cheek and jaw muscles, as a result causing soreness that may appear in a couple of days after.
Horses with jaw issues can experience discomfort or pain caused by a speculum (the device used in holding a horse’s mouth open). Using a speculum is the only way to reach a horse’s rear molars, so this cannot be avoided. Thus, if you have any pre-knowledge, or suspect that your horse has a jaw or nerve issue, find a professional willing to give your horse a great deal of space from the speculum throughout the procedure.
But, if your horse hasn’t had regular floats, or their horse teeth floating are in poor condition, you may notice blood on the float. Usually, this is often as a result of the float rubbing injuries on the cheeks or tongue, made by the sharp points of the horse’s teeth. Bleeding should never be caused by the float itself.
If your horse is particularly nervous or you are worried that floating may be too painful, speak to your veterinarian about whether some sedation and painkillers may be useful.
How to Care for Your Horse’s Teeth
There are a few options for caring for your horse’s teeth between dental exams. Always pay attention to your horse’s eating and general behavior – if your horse is dropping feed, drinking during feed time, eating slowly, showing signs of poor digestion, colic, or choke, dental problems may be the cause. It’s also good to take any behavioral problems into consideration, as they could be linked to dental issues.
Make sure no feed is gets trapped in between your horse’s incisors. If this happens, you can use a small stiff brush to remove the excess feed build-up, or flush their mouths with clean water using a large syringe. This is often more necessary in older horses.
Finally, feed your horse from the ground as this helps in aligning their jaw when they are chewing.
How Much Does It Cost To Float A Horses Teeth?
So, now to the big question of the day – how much does it cost to float a horses teeth?
Routine horse teeth floating costs between $80 to $220 per horse. This price varies depending on your location, and whether you use a dental specialist or a veterinarian. Other factors can also increase the price such as if your horse requires sedation, which can cost upwards of $30, or complex extractions which can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars if veterinary treatment is required.
Summary – How Much Does It Cost To Float A Horses Teeth
So, as we have learned, it is important to incorporate an annual float and regular dental checks, into your horse’s health plan. A healthy mouth will maximize your horse’s performance and enhance their comfort and well-being. The cost of this should be included in your routine annual healthcare budget for your horse, to help reduce the risk of long-term problems in the future.
Check out these links from the American Association of Equine Practitioners for awesome descriptions on how a horses’ mouth works, and what their dental needs are:
- AAEP – Understanding Your Horse’s Teeth
- AAEP – The Importance of Maintaining the Health of Your Horse’s Mouth
Did we miss something? Let us know! Comment below on your experiences with equine dental care, the biggest expenses you’ve had, and how you budget to keep your horse happy and healthy.
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Is floating a horse's teeth necessary?
Horses often need their teeth floated regularly when they are fed hay. Hay contains many different kinds of plants that can rub on the horse's teeth. These sharp bits of plant matter are sometimes referred to as "hay grit" or "chew", and they can wear down a horse's tooth surfaces slowly.
Hay grit can break off the tooth surface altogether, causing holes to develop in the tooth itself. This is called a "fistula", and it can lead to bacteria build-up that can be harmful to the horse. Horse owners should be aware of this and have their horse's teeth checked regularly so the hay grit is removed from their mouths.
Horse floating became popular in the 1970s as a way to prevent dental problems and stimulate an inactive mouth. It has many benefits for dental hygiene, but it is not necessary for every horse. Horse owners should consult with a veterinarian if they are unsure of when or how often to float their horse's teeth.
How often should you float horses teeth?
Some horses' teeth may need floating every 6 months, whereas others only need an annual dental check. The rate at which a horse's tooth wears down largely depends on its diet and how often it eats hay and other abrasive food. Horse teeth can wear down at different rates, so it's important to keep a check on the horse's mouth.
Frequent floating may be required if a horse is fed a diet that causes uneven tooth wear, including:
- diets rich in cereal grains (like oats)
- hay containing alfalfa or timothy
- hay that is low in crude fiber (2% or less)
Horses that eat these types of feed need to be checked frequently for uneven dental wear, sharp points, and overgrowths.
Is horse teeth floating dangerous?
Horse teeth floating is generally safe if done correctly by trained professionals. Horse owners should always consult with a veterinarian before floating their horse's teeth because of the risk of infection and injury to the mouth.
Horse teeth floating can become dangerous if done improperly by untrained owners because of the risk of gingival and periodontal infection, which can lead to an abscess and even death. Only qualified professionals such as veterinarians or equine dental technicians should ever float horses teeth.
Why do wild horses not need their teeth floated?
Free-roaming wild horses do not need their teeth floated because they eat a natural diet made up of tough grasses and plant material. This causes the teeth to wear away naturally, without any sharp points or uneven growth. Most wild horses can maintain healthy and strong teeth with regular grazing only.
Michael Dehaan is a passionate horse owner, horse rider, and lover of all things equine. He has been around horses since he was a child, and has grown to become an expert in the field. He has owned and ridden a variety of horses of different breeds, and has trained many to compete in shows and competitions. He is an experienced horseman, having worked with and competed many horses, including his own. He is an active member of the equestrian community, participating in events and teaching riding lessons.