SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF A HORSE NEEDING DENTAL CAR
Myth: I am sending my three year old horse to a trainer, I have already checked and he does not have wolf teeth that may have interfered with the bit while being trained. My trainer would still like me to have an Equine Dentist check my horse before taking him. This is just a waste of money and time, right? He's only three years old, not like he's over fifteen years old or something. Only old horses need dental care, right?
Fact: Most people are under the misconception that only old horses need dental care. In some horses, dental care may even need to start before they have reached 18 months old which is when they have reached the end of their main growth spurt. Good dental care is very important especially from weanling until five years old, then continuing through out the horses life. Many behavioral, performance and physical problems can be related to a horses teeth. Tooth and mouth pain can cause many problems during training or just being ridden. Head tossing, head shyness, resistance to being bridled, irritability, lack of cooperation, refusing to turn, carrying their heads out of position, even rearing.
More often than not, horses do show one or more signs that they are having dental problems. Things to watch for are: Pausing during eating and opening their mouths wide, often with their heads held sideways. or just holding their heads sideways while eating. Opening their mouths wide while being ridden, even with proper, light rein contact. Shaking their heads while eating or being ridden. Spilling grain out of their mouth while eating or difficulty chewing the grain or other feed. Dunking their feed in their water bucket in hopes of softening it. Excessive salivation. Foul breath. Facial Swelling. Traces of blood in the mouth. Nasal discharge. Finding large or undigested food particles, (hay or whole grain) in the manure meaning the horse is not chewing the food good enough before swallowing it because of dental pain. This could result in a serious, life threatening case of Colic or Choke. And of course, loss of body condition. The rest of the horses are in good flesh, but the one with dental pain isn't as likely to be.
So, yes, all senior citizen horses need yearly dental care, but so do many younger ones.