Last Updated on February 24, 2023
If you’ve ever seen inside a horse’s mouth, you might be surprised to see that its teeth are not pearly white! But why are horse teeth yellow, and do we need to clean them? Let’s find out!
What Color Are Horse Teeth?
Getting a good look at a horse’s teeth is not an easy task, and you may have never had the opportunity to see your horse’s teeth clearly! Let’s take a look at the normal color of a horse’s teeth, at all stages of its life.
A young horse, like humans, will have a set of baby teeth. The correct name for these teeth is deciduous teeth, or you may sometimes hear them called milk teeth. These teeth are creamy white in color and are gradually replaced by adult teeth as the horse grows older.
The adult, or permanent, teeth of a horse are very different in color from the baby teeth. When they first erupt, they will look clean, but you may notice a yellow tinge. Over time, the teeth will become darker in color, and it is normal to see an older horse with yellow or even brown teeth.
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Why Are Horse Teeth Yellow?
So, why are horse teeth yellow – are they dirty, or is there another reason? It is completely normal for the teeth of a horse to be yellow or even brown in color. The reason for this is that the outer surface of the tooth is made of a porous material, which is very different from the surface of a human tooth.
Our human teeth are covered in a hard, non-porous material called enamel. We’re all aware of the importance of protecting the enamel of our teeth, which is what makes the human smile so dazzling and white! Enamel is highly resistant to decay, and is designed to protect our teeth throughout our adult lifetime.
The teeth of a horse are coated in a material called cementum, which is softer than enamel and stains more easily. This is because it is slightly porous, and will slowly absorb pigments from the food that the horse eats. So, the yellow or brown stains we see on horse’s teeth are completely normal and do not need to be removed.
Cementum is softer and more prone to decay than enamel, so why does this not cause a problem for the horse? The reason for this is that the teeth of a horse grow continuously throughout their adult life, and the grinding surface is slowly worn away to match this growth. This means that there is not long enough for decay to set in before the tooth wears away.
However, there is one form of discoloration on equine teeth that can be a problem, and this is tartar. Tartar appears as a hard, yellowish substance that builds up along the gum line, at the base of the tooth. This may need to be removed by an equine dental technician, otherwise, gum disease may occur.
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How To Care For Your Horse’s Teeth
Whilst we are all taught to brush our teeth twice daily, this is not necessary for horses! Which is a good thing really, as it is hard to imagine how it would be possible to brush the teeth of a horse.
The reason why horses do not need their teeth brushed is because of their diet. Horses are herbivores and eat grass, hay, and plants. This creates an alkaline environment in the mouth, which is not harmful to the teeth.
This is very different from the human diet, where the food we eat tends to create an acidic environment. This is very harmful to the hard enamel surface of the teeth, and the teeth will start to decay if not cared for properly.
All horses should have a routine dental examination once or twice a year by a qualified equine dental technician. They will check carefully for any problems, and file away any sharp points that have developed on the teeth. They will also pick away tartar buildup, and monitor for problems such as tooth decay or food packing around the molars.
As a horse gets older, more regular dental care may be required. This is because they start to lose teeth as they age, and the gaps left behind are prone to food packing and other problems.
Summary – Why Are Horse Teeth Yellow?
So, as we have learned, the reason why are horse teeth yellow is because they are covered in a substance called cementum, that gradually absorbs pigments from food. This gradually stains the teeth a yellow-brown color. It is not necessary to brush the teeth of a horse, as these stains are not harmful to the tooth.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on why are horse teeth yellow! Does your horse suffer from a lot of problems with getting food stuck in his teeth? Or maybe you’ve got some questions about the best way to care for your horse’s teeth? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!
Is It Necessary To Clean A Horse's Teeth?
It is not necessary to clean a horse's teeth, as they eat a healthy diet of grass, hay, and vegetables. This creates an alkaline environment in the mouth, which is not detrimental to the outer surface of the teeth.
What Color Should A Horse's Gums Be?
A horse's gums should be pale pink in color. This color is often described as salmon pink. If your horse's gums are not pale pink, this may indicate the horse is unwell or suffering from a health problem.
Why Are My Horse's Gums Pale?
Some horse's gums may look paler than others, but if your horse's gums are so pale that they are almost white this may indicate a serious problem. Pale gums are a sign of decreased circulation, which can be due to excessive hemorrhage, shock, or circulatory failure.
What Do Healthy Horse Gums Look Like?
The gums of a healthy horse should be pale pink and moist. When pressed with a fingertip, the gum will turn white but the color should return to normal within 1-2 seconds.
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 went on 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