A horse’s teeth continue to erupt from the gum line and elongate during most of their lives. This is a smart adaptation for an animal that consumes coarse forage. If their teeth remained static like ours, they’d soon be worn down to useless nubs. The surface of your horse’s teeth aren’t smooth like ours, either, but jagged, which enables them to shred fibrous vegetative matter, something that our human teeth can’t do.
It’s all a very clever system, but much can go awry. If the horse’s jaw is a tad out of alignment, or if they’re not consuming enough rough forage, the teeth will develop sharp points along the edges, which can painfully cut into the soft tissue on the inside of the horse’s mouth. The solution is to do a yearly “float” – which is when the points are rasped smooth.
There are people who have made careers of floating horses’ teeth. Some use a speculum to hold the mouth open, some just slip the rasp in. Many do this without tranquilizers. Most learned this trade as an apprentice to others with experience. Some do a good job. Others don’t.
Tonka’s dental care is a once-a-year event of an essential body part. I want the person doing the floating to do an informed exam before rasping. For that, I prefer to use a veterinarian who is board-certified in equine dentistry. I’m fortunate that there’s one in my region, Dr. Limone.
She visited Tonka this week. First, she tranquilized Tonka. It’s a small dose, he was out of it for only an hour. But during that time, she could have a look in and use her tools without causing him distress.
He got a swish of disinfectant to clear out his mouth.
Then Dr. Limone had a look inside. (Can you believe how big that tongue is?)
Tonka had no abrasions on the right side of his jaw, but on the left there was a line of irritation from points on his teeth. Dr. Limone could see exactly what was causing the issue.
Power tools get a bad rap. Used by people who aren’t watching what they’re doing, they can take down way too much of the tooth, way too quickly. But in trained and skilled hands, they are precise and efficient.
In less than a half-hour, Tonka’s dental procedure was over. This should keep him comfortable for the next year.
By the way, Dr. Limone’s fee for the teeth rasping is the same as what the itinerant floaters charge. I paid extra for her travel fee (which could be divided among other boarders.) So, this isn’t an extravagant expense!
Have you ever had serious dental issues with your horse? Tell me about it in the comments!