Horse Teeth Floating 101: What Can Happen to Your Equine's Teeth

Just like any other animals, horses need grooming. This is not just to enhance their looks but also to safeguard their health. They too require dental care from an equine dentist or veterinary. So, it might be the right time to discuss horse teeth floating.

There are several dental problems that they tend to encounter in their life.

What Is Horse Teeth Floating?

To float a horse’s teeth means contouring them with a file so that they can become smooth. Unlike humans’ teeth, the horse’s teeth keep erupting from under the gum line, making it seem like they keep growing throughout their lifetime. This continuous eruption leads to some sharp edges that might make it difficult for your horse to feed well. These edges tend to cause discomfort, pain, and inability to chew food for the horse.

Adult horses have between 36-44 teeth. Like humans, they grow two sets; baby and permanent teeth. They usually use the front teeth to cut hay, while the bottom and top cheek is usually used to grind forage. Grinding helps to break down the food for easier swallowing and digestion. When your horse grows sharp edges, it will not be able to grind food well. The un-chewed food will also not be digested properly.

  • Often, these points develop on the upper cheek that faces the outside of the mouth just next to the horse’s cheek.
  • Also, they appear on the bottom cheek beside the tongue, facing the inside of the mouth.

These two points can end up injuring the horse’s tongue or cheek, leaving it in pain and discomfort. This necessitates horse teeth floating.

Other Dental Problems

  • Hooks: These develop from misaligned molar archades either due to an underbite or overbite. When one of its teeth is not in contact with the opposing tooth, it tends to become longer and can dig into the horse’s cheek or tongue, which is painful. This could also lead to colic, choke, and weight loss. The condition can be dealt with through a horse teeth floating procedure.
  • Incisor Dental Conditions: These are either caused by retained deciduous teeth, traumatic injuries, or even vices like wind sucking & cribbing. This can lead to uneven tear, which is often treated by an equine dentist who changes the horse’s environment to limit the vices.

Sings That Your Horse Needs Teeth Floating

One of the common signs that horse teeth floating is necessary is your horse dropping food constantly from its mouth. It shows that the horse is unable to either chew or swallow it. Below is a list of other symptoms:

  • Drooling;
  • Acting up under saddle;
  • Unusual head movements;
  • Tilting of head while riding or eating;
  • Undigested food in manure;
  • Discomfort;
  • Opening the mouth frequently;
  • Soaking food in water;
  • Chewing food only on one side;
  • Unexplained weight loss;
  • Eating slowly;
  • Foul smell from the mouth;
  • Nasal discharge.

Treatment Method

The only way to deal with overgrown and sharp-edged teeth is through floating by an equine dentist. The vet will file all the horse’s teeth carefully to soothe them so that they can achieve a flat grinding surface. This will help your horse digest its food better and put it in high spirits to ensure you enjoy your riding.

The equine dentist will also check for other dental problems. Also, if any is diagnosed, treatment will be offered based on the condition.

How Horse Dental Floating is Done

An equine dentist uses special tools to carry out the procedure of horse teeth floating quickly and painlessly. Below are the steps taken to achieve it.

  1. The horse gets sedated to relieve it of any anxiety and make the procedure easier. Horses don’t have nerve endings on their teeth and so, they cannot experience any pain during floating.
  2. The dentist will use a special halter together with a rope and attach it to a beam. This will help keep the horse’s head up during the entire procedure. A speculum will be used to keep the horse’s mouth open.
  3. A special rasp is used to trim excess tooth material so that a flat surface can be created for molars to chew together with an appropriate jaw movement. All the teeth should not be flat since an irregularity is needed to help the horse grind its food.
  4. After floating is complete, the vet will check to ensure the canine teeth have not overgrown to a point where they press in the opposite gums. If need be, they will be trimmed with a dental tool. Some horses tend to have small premolar teeth on their upper jaw, also known as wolf teeth. These too need to be removed if present.

The whole procedure takes less than 30 minutes. One thing you should remember, though, is that there will be a foul smell as the horse teeth floating procedure is taking place. This is a common phenomenon.


Wild horses rarely have this problem. This is because they graze out in the wilderness for endless hours. On the other hand, tamed horses don’t have that opportunity, which leads to increased dental problems.

  • If your horse gets a good share of pasture time, it might reduce the risk of such dental problems. Grazing out allows it to eat different kinds of tough food that helps in trimming the teeth. The problem with domesticated animals is that their only option is hay and pellets. This kind of food lacks the tough fiber required to keep your horse’s teeth in check. Let it get to graze out often and you might end up mitigating this problem.
  • If you get your horse’s teeth floated regularly and taken care of, you will be able to avoid most dental problems.
  • Make sure to check your horse’s teeth regularly and if you notice any change, call the vet. They are the only people with the necessary tools to check and treat horse teeth floating.
  • Do not attempt to reach into the horse’s mouth with bare hands. It might just bite you or may even shred your fingers on the sharp edges. Don’t attempt to do horse teeth floating on your own either.
  • Ask the equine dentist to show you how to check your horse’s teeth on your own so that you can carry out regular inspections. If you notice anything amiss, let the vet know.

In the End

Just as you keep appointments with your dentist, the same should be done for your horse. It also needs the services of an equine dentist at least once per year or more often, depending on its dental health needs.

This will benefit both the horse and you. Your relationship with the horse will improve and you will get to enjoy those rides even more. In the same way that you feel great after a dentist’s visit, your horse also experiences it. Be kind to your horse and it will do the same to you. Teeth floating will ensure your horse is in perfect health and you can also continue enjoying your horse-back rides without any problems.


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