Brushing a Horse’s Teeth: Do Horses Need Their Teeth Brushed?

White teeth and a radiant smile are a real dream for us humans that we work on every day. The horse’s teeth don’t have to shine white right away, but they should also be healthy. Regular dental checks and a visit to the horse dentist are therefore essential. But what do you have to pay attention to?

Regular Dental Checks for a Healthy Horse

We all know that toothaches are not only extremely uncomfortable but also extremely limiting. To prevent them, we brush our teeth and go to regular checkups – and that is how it should be with horses. After all, a healthy set of teeth ensures a good physical condition, good digestion, a healthy coat, and a great look.

A daily little check can easily be carried out while bridling. Here you should pay particular attention to whether tartar is recognizable. This manifests itself in clearly darkened areas that are deposited on the tooth. You should also look for any sharp irregularities. Since most horses do not chew quite evenly, it can happen that the teeth wear out differently. The resulting corners and edges can injure the gums.

Recognize Dental Problems in Horses

Even the smallest problem with the teeth can have a negative effect on basic fitness because food intake is often neglected and digestive problems can arise. So if you notice the following symptoms, this can be an indication of dental problems:

  • Refusal to feed or change drinking behavior;
  • Abnormal chewing movement of the jaw;
  • Dull fur;
  • Loss of stamina;
  • Leaning difficulties and rideability problems when riding as well as resistance to commands (rejecting, blocking or climbing);
  • Weight loss;
  • Changed excrement (e.g. solidified or liquefied, lower excrement, grains in the excrement);
  • Colic;
  • Bad breath;
  • Injuries in the mouth.

Toothache in the Horse

Pain in the teeth does not always have to be due to dental diseases in the horse. Especially at a young age, changing teeth in the jaw causes uncomfortable pressure and manifests itself in the symptoms described above. In the following, we want to give a brief overview of the most common causes of toothache.

The Change of Teeth

When a horse is around three years old, the teeth change. The 24 milk teeth make room for 36 to 44 new teeth – a painful process in which a lot can go wrong. For example, the milk caps may become detached after a delay or the jaw swell because the tooth sockets are too narrow or the oral mucosa has been damaged by the sharp new teeth. Veterinary care is essential here.


We humans also know the most famous culprit: tooth decay. This occurs increasingly in two forms: the chewing surface and the dental neck caries. With the former, food remains on the horse’s enamel. These are absorbed by bacteria and what remains is the feces of the little culprits. These now attack the tooth enamel and decompose it. In the case of dental caries, on the other hand, it is assumed that certain feeds are the cause. You should therefore watch out for too much acidic or sugary food and replace some treats with apples, carrots, and bread.


Another problem that we humans often have to contend with: misaligned teeth. Horses often show imbalances in the form of missing opposing teeth or crooked growth. These misalignments provide a breeding ground for tooth decay because the spaces between the teeth are blocked and no longer clean themselves with food and saliva. In this case, the dentist should be called to correct any misalignments.


It is one of the few problems that a horse owner can easily identify: tartar. As described above, it manifests itself in clearly darkened areas on the actual tooth. It is usually particularly pronounced on the incisors. It becomes problematic when it painfully displaces the gums. In that case, it must be removed mechanically by the dentist.

Wolf Teeth and Stallion Teeth

Both types of teeth could be compared with human wisdom teeth: They have become superfluous in the course of evolution, but still appear from time to time. The stallion or hook teeth appear more often than the average in male horses, but from time to time they also affect mares. They can lie almost anywhere in the dentition and are not necessarily bothersome. However, if the malposition is enormous, it must be removed.

The wolf teeth, on the other hand, are more problematic. If these are formed, they are located in front of the first molar. These are very small, pointed teeth, which can easily damage the tongue or the surrounding gums. The bridle can also get stuck on you painfully. Often it is necessary to grind these teeth.

A Visit to the Horse Dentist

The Inspection Visit

In addition to self-checking the horse’s teeth ‘, the dentist should also make a visit at least once a year and check for tooth decay and other inflammation of the teeth and gums. In the case of foals and old horses, this check should ideally take place every six months – as is the case with animals with deviating, susceptible teeth.

For Toothache

If there are painful irregularities, the veterinarian or dental practitioner must help. He first scans the teeth, temporomandibular joint, and masticatory muscles from the outside in order to localize potential pain in a normal joint position.

In most cases, a mouth gate (also known as a mouth lock) is used to look into the oral cavity in order to sand off sharp edges, hooks, and waves, treat tartar or loosen milk teeth that did not fall out by themselves.

Misalignments and troublesome teeth (e.g. without opposing teeth or only partially present) are clipped, chiseled, milled, or sawed-off, depending on the method. To save the horse’s stress, the vet can sedate them for this moment.

Problems After Visiting the Dentist

If the teeth are filed too smoothly or inadequately treated, they damage the horse’s mouth: the feed is no longer sufficiently ground or gets stuck in the gaps and causes tooth decay. So be sure to pay more attention to symptoms in the following weeks.

Keeping Horse Teeth Healthy

There are a number of things the rider can do to keep the horse’s teeth healthy and avoid a visit to the dentist. On the one hand, there would be your own inspection of the teeth: Check for tartar once a week and feel for the front incisors – if the horse is in pain, it will shy away from it. You can also smell your breath – bacteria usually cause an unpleasant odor and can thus be recognized. While snaffling, you can still detect oral injuries and check for missing (or extra) teeth.

Feeding is also crucial – too much sugar and acid damage your teeth. Better to use natural delicacies like carrots here. The type of feeding also has an impact – in nature horses eat with their heads bowed. This ensures that the teeth wear out more evenly.

Regular, even daily brushing of our teeth, as we know it from humans, is not necessary. On the one hand, this is due to the fact that the horse’s feed and saliva components are less aggressive than those of humans. On the other hand, the horse’s teeth are also designed to heal themselves. This means that the tooth is constantly producing new tooth substances.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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