The horse world is full of strange terminology, and you may hear other horse owners talking about having their horse’s teeth floated. But what does it mean to float a horse’s teeth?
Floating a horse’s teeth is part of the routine dental care of the horse. Every horse should have their teeth regularly checked, and they may need floating to correct any problems.
Let’s take a look at the world of horse dental care and find out all about floating!
What Is Floating A Horse’s Teeth?
All horses and ponies need regular dental checks by a qualified professional. If any abnormalities are detected on the dental check, a device will be used to smooth sharp edges and level the surface of the tooth. This process is called floating.
Why Do Horses Need Their Teeth Floating?
Horses are herbivores, and their diet is made up almost entirely of tough roughage such as hay and grass. This food is hard to chew and will wear the grinding surface of the teeth down over time. To compensate for this, the horse’s teeth will continue to grow or erupt throughout the lifetime of the horse.
As the teeth grow and the horse chews, the teeth can start to wear down unevenly. This can cause problems such as:
- Hooks – Sharp protrusions that develop on teeth
- Ramps – A ‘ski slope’ appearance of the tooth surface
- Step mouth – When one tooth grows too long, normally because the opposite grinding tooth is missing
- Shear mouth – Over-exaggerated angle of the grinding surface
- Wave mouth – A series of ascending and declining grinding surfaces
Floating the horse’s teeth can help to correct many of these problems. This will mean the horse can continue to eat normally. If these dental problems are not treated, they can become very painful, and the horse may not be able to eat.
What Happens If A Horse’s Teeth Are Not Floated?
If a horse’s teeth are not floated, then small abnormalities will gradually become worse and cause health problems for the horse. Small hooks will turn into large painful spurs, which can rub the mouth and cause ulcers. This will stop the horse from eating and may cause them to drool.
Ramps and overgrowths which are not floated will continue to get bigger and can hinder the normal chewing action of the horse. Horses chew their food in a circular motion, and any abnormalities will prevent the horse from doing this. This means that food will not be chewed thoroughly and the horse cannot digest it properly.
Signs that a horse has dental problems are easy to spot. They may not chew food properly and can drop balls of chewed hay or grass on the floor. Sometimes balls of half-chewed food will get stuck around the teeth or inside the cheeks.
Other signs of dental abnormalities include weight loss, reduced appetite, and behavioral problems when ridden.
How Are Horse’s Teeth Floated?
The easiest way to describe floating a horse’s teeth is to think of it as a file or rasp. The sharp edges or abnormal growths are removed or corrected using a rough abrasive surface. Exactly the same as filing your nails, but on a much larger scale!
The tools used to do this are called dental floats – metal files on the end of a long handle. Dental floats come in a wide range of shapes, sizes and textures, to enable the dental professional to reach and treat all areas of the mouth.
Dental floats come in two types – manual and powered. Manual dental floats are on a simple straight metal handle and are moved over the tooth by hand to rasp away the overgrowth. Powered dental floats have a rotating or oscillating rasp, which is held over the tooth to correct the abnormality.
To access the horse’s teeth safely, the dental professional will normally use a gag to hold the mouth open. It is very common to give horses a sedative to keep them calm during this procedure. This is because it can be very hard to access the back of the horse’s mouth, and they may start to panic when the teeth are being floated.
Who Can Float A Horse’s Teeth?
It is vital that only a qualified professional is allowed to float a horse’s teeth. If this procedure is done by someone without the proper training, they may cause irreparable damage to the horse’s teeth. Problems can also be caused if any small abnormalities are not noticed. As a result, these will become worse over time and require more treatment.
In most countries, equine veterinary surgeons will carry out dental floating. This can be very useful if your horse needs sedating, as they will do this for you as well! You may need to take your horse to the veterinary clinic to have his teeth floated, or they may visit your yard to do it.
If your veterinary clinic does not do dental floating, you will need to find an equine dental technician. Look for one with a qualification which is recognized in your country – your veterinary surgeon may be able to recommend someone to you. Check that your equine dental technician is registered and insured.
How Often Do Horse’s Teeth Need Floating?
Your horse’s teeth should be checked every year by a dental professional. If they have had dental problems in the past, they may recommend that the check takes place every 6 months. Your horse will not necessarily need his teeth floating every time they are checked; however, regular checks are important to prevent any serious problems from developing.
In conclusion, good dental health is vital to a horse’s well-being. Therefore, regular dental checks and floating are essential to keep the teeth in good condition. Floating is the process where sharp points and overgrowths are rasped using a dental float. Horse’s teeth should only be floated by a qualified professional, and the horse may need to be sedated for this procedure.
We’d love to hear about your experiences – perhaps your horse enjoys having his teeth floated? Or maybe you have questions about how horse’s teeth are floated? Add a comment below this post and we’ll get back to you!