After-hours/Emergency Phone: 07 573 7606

07 573 7606

Te Puke Veterinary Centre Ltd


The Normal Equine Mouth

The average horse will graze for 16-18 hours a day  on a fibrous diet such as hay and grass. Horses cheek teeth erupt at a rate of approximately 2-3mm ever year, with normal sideways chewing action the teeth are worn down at the same rate of eruption. With domestication and feeding of concentrates the action of the sideways chewing is reduced and this leads to sharp enamel overgrowths or points.  Sharp enamel overgrowths occur on the upper cheek side and the lower tongue side of the equine mouth. These overgrowths or points touch the soft tissue surfaces and cause ulcerations adding discomfort and reducing the normal chewing motion even more. During a dental float these sharp overgrowths are reduced to allow normal chewing action to continue without contact to the soft tissue surfaces.

Every horse is different but most will require an annual dental float as part of general check up.


Signs of Dental Problems

Signs of a dental issue that would require immediate attention include:

  • Dropping food from the mouth (quidding)
  • Unusual head carriage/head flicking
  • Weight loss
  • Bitting problems
  • Smelly breath
  • Behavioral issues
  • Excessive salivation
  • Swelling of the face
  • Undigested food in the manure

Not all horses will show obvious signs of dental issues, its important to have regular dental check -ups especially if introducing a horse to the bit for the first time.


Dental Floating

Dental floating is a term used to describe the smoothing or reducing of sharp enamel overgrowth with a hand held rasp called a 'float'. A dental 'gag' or speculum is placed in the mouth to allow for full examination of all the teeth without danger to the dentist or undue stress to the horse.

A normal dental examination and float can take up to 40 minutes. After a dental float the horse should not have any discomfort and should return to grazing as normal straight away. Some horses may require longer procedures or follow up examinations if there are focal areas of dental overgrowth called 'hooks' or 'ramps'.



Sedation is available at Te Puke Veterinary Centre. Sedation is a useful tool for nervous horses or horses which are suffering dental pain during a dental float. This option is available to all our clients and can be decided at the time of examination. Sedation allows for a pain and stress free examination and float in a safe environment. Generally nervous horses which receive sedation on the first dental become accustomed to the procedure and may not require sedation in later years.


Wolf teeth

The big question really is to extract or not to extract? A wolf tooth is the fist premolar and is found most commonly on the upper arcade. Most people believe that the wolf teeth need to be removed so they don't create problems for young horses when introducing them to the bit. This is not true.  Wolf teeth only need to be removed if they are displaced, impacted or causing damage to the gums or lips. Some wolf teeth have very long roots so by removing wolf teeth as routine we risk damaging the palatine artery and unnecessarily damage the gums.

If your horse requires wolf tooth removal, trained veterinarians at Te Puke Vets can insert a local anesthetic block to remove the tooth safely and pain free.