Let’s switch gears this article and talk equine. I have been getting a few calls about floating horse’s teeth lately – or to smooth or contour your horse’s teeth with a file (called a “float”).
One comment was that they need this procedure when they are young and old. I have to disagree with that. The problem with horse’s teeth is that they continually grow or erupt. The way horses grind their teeth to chew food allows them to grow sharp points on the outside of the uppers and on the inside of the lowers.
This sideways growth allows for more shearing action, not grinding. This all happens on the molars, which are in the back of the mouth. A horse has between 36 and 44 teeth. This means that with these sharp points they will not be able to grind their food properly.  And, the first part of digestion is chewing food. Please, remember what your mother told you, “CHEW YOUR FOOD AND SLOW DOWN!”
Now, with these teeth wearing at a slant, it’s not conducive to grinding feed, grass or hay. I have actually seen scar tissue build up in the mouth of an older horse that has never had his teeth floated.
Another problem often seen is where the bite is not adjusted properly. Therefore, the teeth are not being ground off by chewing. This causes frontal hooks, caudal hooks, ramps or steps. Also, with these hooks the horse acts up with a bit, because the bit does not fit properly or comfortably in the mouth. These hooks need to be ground off and rounded down so the bit will fit comfortably into the mouth, while adjusting the bit so they will not come back as quickly.
The chewing action of a horse is a balancing act. The whole mouth needs to be in alignment so that all 24 molars will engage at the same time during the chewing action to wear properly. This is just like when your ferrier balances your horse’s feet. If they do not engage, they will not wear off at the same rate. This is when we get these hooks, ramps or steps. A step is where a molar is lost and the opposing molar does not have anything to grind against. I have even seen where it has grown and worn a hole into the sinus of a horse, causing an infection. These need to be ground down and kept at the level bite surface.
Commonly, if we do not keep these teeth in check throughout their life, older horses will see either a wave or dome shape to the bite surface. Now, this is not as conducive to grinding feed as a straight and flat surface. Normally, we are unable to straighten them back out totally at one time. In these older horses you can do too much and throw them off feed for too long. Just because you can, doesn’t always mean you should.
Dr. Tim O’Neill owns Country Veterinary Clinic in Farmington, Ark.


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