What Is A Wave Mouth In Horses, And Can It Be Corrected?

Last Updated on April 5, 2022 by admin

Horses are prone to many different dental problems, and wave mouth in horses is one of the more difficult problems to correct. Let’s find out everything you need to know about this complex dental issue in horses!

Normal Horse Jaw Anatomy And Dentition

The horse has a very impressive and well-adapted jaw anatomy, enabling it to consume large amounts of roughage such as hay and grass. Horses are adapted to eat for many hours each day, and chewing large amounts of food gradually wear away the grinding surface of the teeth.

The horse has two large jaws, the upper mandible, and the lower maxilla. As the horse chews, these move in a circular motion, crushing the food between the grinding surfaces of the teeth. The teeth that do this work are called the cheek teeth, consisting of three molars and three premolars on each side of each jaw.

Normal Horse Jaw Anatomy And Dentition

The cheek teeth have a uniquely adapted grinding surface, with hard ridges or folds of enamel on a flat surface. It is these ridges that grind the food into smaller pieces, as they make contact with the teeth on the opposing jaw.

In a horse with normal jaw anatomy, the teeth on each jaw meet evenly, and will all wear away at the same rate. However, domesticated horses have many dental problems, and the vast majority are caused when the teeth do not wear away evenly.

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Why Do Horses Get A Wave Mouth?

A wave mouth in horses occurs when the molar teeth are not correctly aligned. This leads to the teeth being worn away unevenly as the horse chews. Some teeth will be worn away excessively, while others will grow too long. This leads to a wave-like appearance of the molar teeth of the horse.

The cheek teeth of the horse erupt very slowly but continuously throughout its entire life. Each molar and premolar has a large reserve – this is the section of the tooth under the gum. It moves up slowly through the horse’s lifetime, to replace the grinding surface that is worn away when the horse eats.

In a wave mouth, the teeth do not rub against each other evenly, and this process becomes disrupted. Teeth that are worn away excessively cannot erupt fast enough to keep up and become shorter than normal. In extreme cases, the tooth may wear away right down to the gum line.

Caring for the Horse’s Teeth and Mouth

Whilst these teeth are being worn away excessively, the opposing tooth is not being worn down enough and starts to become too long. This, combined with the worn-down teeth, creates the characteristic wave-life appearance of this dental problem in horses.

A wave mouth in horses can be very difficult to correct, particularly if it has been allowed to develop over many years. A regular dental check will identify and correct the problems caused by abnormal wearing of the teeth before they develop into a wave mouth.

Once a wave mouth has formed, it will take many regular dentistry sessions to correct the abnormal wear and growth. This involved gradually filing down the grinding surface of the overgrown teeth, giving the opposing tooth chance to grow back to its normal size. Only a small amount can be ground away during each treatment session, otherwise, the sensitive pulp in the center of the tooth may be exposed, causing pain and infection.

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What Causes A Wave Mouth In Horses?

There are some factors, including genetic, conformation, and management related, that can predispose horses to develop a wave mouth.

If a horse has poor jaw alignment, then it is more likely to suffer from a wave mouth. This includes horses with an underbite and an overbite.

Miniature horse breeds are also more likely to develop a wave mouth, due to poor dental alignment.

What Causes A Wave Mouth In Horses?

The way in which horses are managed also affects the chances of them developing a wave mouth. This includes horses that are fed from a raised feeder or hay rack, as the chewing action is altered when the horse eats with the head raised.

If a horse does not receive regular dental care, it may also develop a wave mouth. A minor dental abnormality, such as a small hook on one of the cheek teeth, can cause the horse to chew abnormally. This leads to the teeth wearing down unevenly, and the horse will get a wave mouth.

Wave Mouth In Horses Summary

So, as we have learned, wave mouth in horses occurs when the molar teeth are not correctly aligned. This leads to the teeth being worn away unevenly as the horse chews. Some teeth will be worn away excessively, while others will grow too long. This leads to a wave-like appearance of the molar teeth of the horse.

We’d love to hear your thought on wave mouth in horses! Has your horse been successfully treated for this difficult problem? Or maybe you’ve got a question about how dental problems in horses can be avoided? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!

FAQ’s

How Do I Know If My Horse Has Teeth Problems?

If a horse has teeth problems you may notice that he is having difficulty eating. This can include dropping food, particularly balls of chewed grass or hay. You might also see food packed around the teeth or inside the cheeks.

Horses that have teeth problems may start to lose weight, as they cannot chew and digest food properly. You might also notice behavioral problems, particularly when the horse is ridden.

What Is A Wave Mouth?

A wave mouth is when the molars of the horse are worn in an irregular wave-shaped pattern. This occurs because of an uneven or abnormal bite, meaning the teeth are not accurately aligned when the horse chews food. The teeth on one part of the wave will be worn down excessively, while other teeth grow too long.

How Do You Treat Wave Mouth In Horses?

The treatment options for wave mouth in horses depends on the severity of the condition and the age of the horse. A younger horse can be treated by gradually correcting the overgrowths through careful and repeated floating. In an older horse, the wave mouth may be so advanced that it cannot be corrected.

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