A while back you had a great informational piece about hoof management for Baby Z. I was wondering what you do to take care of his teeth? Do horses have baby teeth they lose to make room for permanent teeth like humans?
Apple Valley, CA
A: The oral cavity of a young growing horse is undergoing constant change. Unlike humans, horses have hypsodont teeth that are constantly erupting. From the time a foal is born to the time the horse is an adult, the number of teeth increases from 0-6 as a foal to 36-44 as a full mouthed adult. The average horse has a full mouth of 36-44 teeth (4 rows of 11) by the age of 4 years. During the first four years, it is important to routinely evaluate the oral cavity for congenital (born with) and developmental (acquired) disorders. If congenital and developmental disorders are not identified and addressed early, they may lead to more severe disorders.
A newborn foal is born with few teeth. The first incisors may be present at birth or can be just below the gingival surface. The first incisors typically erupt through the gingiva around 6-8 days of life. All of the incisors should be present by 6-9 months of age. The same is true for the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th pre-molars. They may be present at birth but they are generally exposed by two weeks of age. Three permanent molars erupt caudal (behind) to the premolars at 1, 2 & 3.5-4 years respectively.As Baby Z grows up his teeth will be examined periodically to insure that they are erupting in the proper place, size and number. All foals at Lane’s End are examined at birth for any oral abnormalities. Foals are monitored daily for any illnesses or injuries and that includes the oral cavity. As Baby Z becomes a yearling he will have an oral exam performed twice a year to monitor normal tooth wear and eruption. If necessary, sharp enamel points that form on the outside of the upper tooth arcades and the inside of the lower tooth arcades will be reduced. This is most commonly known as “teeth floating.” Baby Z may also have his wolf-teeth or first pre-molars removed before he enters light breaking and training. Wolf-teeth may cause him discomfort when a bit is placed in his mouth and that could interfere with his training.
Routine oral care is a critical part of any annual wellness program. With oral exams once to twice a year, Baby Z will be sure to have a beautiful set of pearly whites to smile with in the winners circle!
Hagyard Equine Dentistry
Dr. Martinez graduated from the Oklahoma State College of Veterinary Medicine in 2003. He completed an ambulatory internship at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute and became a Field Care Associate in 2004. His practice includes emergency field medicine, herd health and wellness, neonatal foal care, mare and stallion reproduction, and equine dentistry. Dr. Martinez is actively involved with veterinary medicine organizations, holding positions in the Kentucky Association of Equine Practitioners and the National American Association of Equine Practitioners. His wife practices small animal emergency medicine in Lexington, KY. They live in Versailles with their three year old son and two dogs.