Last Updated on October 12, 2022
You may know that your horse needs dental care, but how often do horses need their teeth floated? And is this something you can do yourself? Let’s find out everything you need to know about routine dental care for horses!
What Does Teeth Floating Mean For Horses?
Teeth floating is the process of routine dental care for horses, where a manual or mechanical rasp is used to remove sharp points on the teeth and level out any imbalances. To enable this to be carried out competently, a gag is normally placed on the horse to hold the mouth open. It may be necessary to sedate the horse to keep him calm during the procedure.
The aim of floating a horse’s teeth is to provide the optimum surface for grinding food, as well as leveling out any imbalances. This is a very fine art, as too much floating can be as detrimental as not floating a horse’s teeth at all.
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Why Do Horses Need Their Teeth Floated?
You might find the idea of rasping away at a horse’s teeth quite odd – after all, humans don’t need to have their teeth filed down! So, why do horses need their teeth floated? To figure this out we need to understand a bit more about the dentition of a horse.
A horse is born with a full set of teeth, but these are embedded deep within the jaw. During its juvenile years, the teeth gradually erupt. Temporary teeth come first, followed by permanent adult teeth.
Over the lifetime of the horse, the adult teeth continue to erupt very gradually. This is a clever adaptation that enables them to eat a large amount of grass, hay, and other tough plant material they need to consume to survive.
When a horse chews tough, fibrous food, the grinding surfaces of the cheek teeth pulverize it to a pulp that can then be swallowed and digested. These cheek teeth – the molar and premolar teeth – have a wide grinding surface with small ridges to help crush the food. As the horse chews, this grinding surface will be very gradually worn away.
So, to compensate for this, the teeth continue to erupt very slowly. This enables the horse to maintain an effective set of teeth throughout its entire lifetime, although geriatric horses will sometimes start to lose their cheek teeth.
Unfortunately, the way we keep our domesticated horses has led to some problems in the ways in which their teeth erupt. The teeth tend not to wear down evenly, as we give our horses a softer and more chewable diet than their wild counterparts. This leads to sharp points and hooks developing, and the grinding surfaces can become misaligned.
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Regular floating of the teeth is intended to prevent these problems from occurring, by correcting any small abnormalities before they develop into something more serious. Just a few minutes of work with a rasp can remove sharp hooks and level out the grinding surfaces.
How Often Do Horses Need Their Teeth Floated?
Horses should have their mouths examined by a dental technician or veterinarian every six months. This frequency will allow any potential problems to be identified and rectified early before they develop into something more serious.
You may find that your horse does not need his teeth floating every six months, but this does not mean that you should skip the examination. It is far better to have an examination where no floating is required than to miss an examination and allow a minor problem to turn into a major issue.
Can I Float My Horse’s Teeth Myself? How Often Do Horses Need Their Teeth Floated?
It takes many years to learn how to float a horse’s teeth, and this is a skill that should only be carried out by a qualified equine dental professional.
Although you may come across unqualified people who claim they can float a horse’s teeth, in reality, it is only a task that should be carried out by a qualified person. Incorrect or excessive floating can cause serious problems for the horse and may lead to long-term dental issues. Over-zealous floating can result in a smooth and ineffective grinding surface on the tooth, meaning the horse struggles to chew and digest food properly.
So, although getting a professional to float your horse’s teeth may seem expensive, in reality, it is much more cost-effective than dealing with the consequences of bad dental treatment, or no floating at all.
How Much Does t Cost To Float A Horse’s Teeth?
The cost of floating a horse’s teeth will vary according to many factors. Taking your horse to a clinic is normally more cost-effective than a home visit from a veterinarian or dental technician. If your horse needs sedation to enable a full dental examination and floating to take place, this will also lead to higher costs.
In the U.S,, the average cost of having your horse’s teeth floated is $80 to $200. This fee only covers a routine examination and floating, and any more complex problems will be more expensive. Regular teeth floating is the best way to avoid painful and costly dental treatment for the horse later in life.
Summary – How Often Do Horses Need Their Teeth Floated
So, as we have learned, How Often Do Horses Need Their Teeth Floated will depend on many factors, such as the age of the horse, the type of food it eats, and whether it has any dental problems. Regular floating is essential to prevent long-term and problematic dental issues from occurring, which may require intensive and repeated treatment to resolve. Floating a horses teeth should only be carried out by a qualified equine dental professional, and it may be necessary to have your horse sedated to keep him calm during the procedure.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on how often do horses need their teeth floated! Have you ever taken on a horse with neglected teeth that needed long-term dental treatment? Or perhaps your horse is due to have his teeth floated for the first time and you’re worried about what to expect? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!
Kate Chalmers is a qualified veterinary nurse who has specialized in horse care for the vast majority of her career. She has been around horses since she was a child, starting out riding ponies and helping out at the local stables before going on to college to study Horse Care & Management. She has backed and trained many horses during her lifetime and competed in various equestrian sports at different levels.
After Kate qualified as a veterinary nurse, she provided nursing care to the patients of a large equine veterinary hospital for many years. She then wenton to teach horse care and veterinary nursing at one of the top colleges in the country. This has led to an in-depth knowledge of the care needs of horses and their various medical ailments, as well as a life-long passion for educating horse owners on how to provide the best possible care for their four-legged friends.
Kate Chalmers BSc (Hons) CVN, Dip AVN (Equine) Dip HE CVN EVN VN A1 PGCE