Why horses need dental work

Why horses need dental work

Having your horse's teeth "floated" regularly helps to keep him healthy!

No, that's not some kind of torture device strapped to my horse's mouth.  It's just a speculum, for holding his mouth open while my vet works on his teeth.  (He's also well sedated, so although I can't say for sure that he enjoyed the experience, I am resonably confident that it wasn't too traumatic for him.)

For some horse owners, the thought of doing dental work on a horse makes them roll their eyes and shake their heads.  "It's just a horse," and all that -- I know, I've heard it before.  But there are actually a few good reasons to have your horse's teeth floated.

First of all, though, if you don't already know, "floating" is when the vet files down a horse's teeth so that they make a nice, smooth grinding surface once again.  Horses' teeth grow constantly, and because of the motion of their chewing, they tend to get sharp points and edges on their teeth.  The uneven grinding surfaces make them unable to chew their food well, for one thing, but it also causes sores in their mouths that can make it painful to eat.

So floating your horse's teeth regularly can make him happier and more comfortable, for one thing.  But if you don't care about your horse's happiness, you at least ought to care that floating can also save you money in the long run.  When your horse can't chew his food well, either because it hurts or because his teeth don't grind together very well, he can't get all of the nutrition out of what he's eating, and some of it therefore passes all the way through unchewed.  (Think about it: What happens if you don't chew your corn very well?)  This can cause problems in keeping weight on a horse, particularly an older horse, and force you to spend more money to supply your horse with more food -- an expensive proposition, especially with what hay prices are lately.

So while some horse owners may scoff at dental work as being unnecessary for horses, the truth is it can actually save you money, not to mention make your horse a heck of a lot happier!