9 common equine dental problems

Horses can suffer from many dental problems. Here are some of the most common issues.

Sharp Enamel Points

Commonly known as enamel cusps too, they are due to the fact horse’s teeth keep erupting all over its life and wear down from chewing. Sharp enamel point can cause lacerations to cheeks and tongue therefore pain and discomfort when eating. A good spot on for this problem by the owner or trainer is quidding. A regular dental care totally put right with any discomfort.


Hooks are sharp protrusions develop usually on the first upper premolars (rare on the lower first premolars). They can be associated with a malocclusion called overbite or parrot mouth in which the upper incisors overlap the lower incisors and the top and bottom arcades are not aligned.

Hooks can restrict anterior/posterior movement of the jaw affecting mastication and ridden performances.


Typically present on the last two lower molars, ramps can inhibit the anterior posterior movement of the jaw same as hooks. In severe cases ramps can develop very big and sharp creating problems to when eating and exercising. The TMJ temporal mandibular joint can be affect from this dental issue.

ETR Excessive Transverse Ridges

Normally the grinding surfaces of horse´s teeth is not smooth, transverse ridges running across instead to allow the horse to break feed and forage in digestible size. However, when these ridges become more pronounced than normal they are called Excessive Transverse Ridges and can cause several problems. They can restrict the anterior/posterior movement of the mandible as the lateral movement forcing the horse to open its mouth during the mastication process with the result of undigested food. To sum up, when the normal transverse ridges become too exaggerated they need to be reduced to a natural level, in severe cases maybe more than one treatment is necessary.

Wave Mouth

Wave mouth is described as uneven wear of the molar arcades that create an effect that looks like a roller coaster . This is a typical issue due to a neglected dental care over the years of young horses as retained caps or impacted molars can cause it. It is quite obvious that horses with wave mouth have problems when eating. A wave mouth is difficult to be fully corrected especially in older horses but much can be done to make them more comfortable.


When the clinical crown (exposed crown) is longer than those in the rest of the arcade we are facing a step mouth. This occur when a tooth is missed or there is an impacted cheek tooth. Both lateral and anterior/posterior movement of the jaw are restricted. A year double check for these horses is recommended.

Shear Mouth

It is considered one of the most serious dental problem not so common though. It occurs when the table angle of on arcade is much steeper than the opposite one due to a faster rate of wearing. It always goes together with an incisors slant. It is a difficult issue to treat and it requires regularly check

Deciduous teeth problems (Caps)

Young horses between 2 and half year and 5 year change their milk teeth to permanent ones. This process involve 24 deciduous teeth and often youngsters can have problems to shed them causing pain and discomfort. Retained caps can result in infections and in worst cases in cysts commonly know as teeth bumps in which the permanent teeth is not able to push away the milk tooth. For horses in this age range I recommend a check every 6 months.

Wolf Teeth

Wolf teeth are vestigial premolars located in front of the first uppers premolars (rarely they can appear on the lower jaw too). They come in different shapes and sizes with a root normally two or three times the length of the crown.

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