Equine Dental Services

“Ask a horse what the meaning of equine dentistry is and for the most part they would tell you ‘ Freedom from Pain’.” quotation by Dale Jeffrey.

This is the basic idea behind Equine Dental Services. I am a non-veterinarian dental practitioner that is dedicated to the promotion of happy, healthy horses thru the proper use of non-invasive dental procedures.

Ever wonder why:

Your horse eats and eats, but doesn’t gain weight?

Your horse eats it’s grain, but half of it spills out onto the floor?

Your horse carries it’s head cocked or at an angle?

Your horse turns is one direction only very well?

Your horse has a runny nose for no apparent reason?

Your horse tosses it’s head during bitting?

Rearing problems when you pull back on the reins?

Your horse develops small bumps on it’s lower jaw?

These are all signs of possible dental problems that can be repaired by the use of teeth floating, bit seating, and routine dental maintenance.

More and more people are finding out how important proper dental care is to their horses and the increased value it provides. Equine teeth are constantly in eruption and wear:  eruption is the amount of growth and wear is the contact with opposing teeth. Equine teeth grow–actually eruption–on an average of 1/8″ to 1/4″ per year. With this eruption, the teeth tend to have sharp edges or points which can cause damage to the interior of the mouth. Common problems and symptoms include biting the insides of the cheek creating holes and ulcers; biting the tongue, head tossing, peculiar head carriages, poor food mastication and jaw locking.  Additional problems related to dental health include airway restrictions, nasal discharge or infection, dental cysts and abscesses, weight loss and increased risk of colic.  Proper dental care allows for better food consumption which maximizes animal conditioning and lowers feed cost. Equine Dental Services will deliver you a happier, healthier horse free from the pain caused by common dental issues.

I have included a more in depth view of my equine dental practice and theology following my contact information below.

Mike Degner completed formal training in June 2011 with a two-week course at the Equine Gnathological Training Institute (EGTI) in King Hill,ID. The world-renowned equine dental school was founded by Dale Jeffrey, a leading equine dental practitioner for over 30 years and published author of multiple articles and gnathological course text books.  The intensive training  included a week of class room studies and dry labs,  followed by a second week of hands-on “wet lab” training with all types of horses from ponies to drafts with a couple of Mustangs thrown in for good measure (and stamina). Mike then returned to EGTI in August 2012 for an additional week of Continuing Education and received his final Certification of Competency for Equine Dentistry/Gnathology.

After Certification, Mike applied for and received his State of Minnesota registration for non-veterinarian Equine Teeth Floaters. The State of Minnesota regulations require non-veterinarian practitioners to have a sponsor veterinarian (this does not apply outside of MN).  South 71 Veterinary Clinic and Dr. Steven Rumsey, DVM from Willmar, Mn.  is the sponsor for Equine Dental Services and can provide referrals or assistance as needed for complex dental issues.

Mike is also a member of the (EDPA) Equine Dental Providers of America.

Dental service includes complete dental exams with charts, floating, and bit seats.  All tools are breed and size appropriate with separate tools for the smaller miniature horse or pony mouth.

Standard prices (may change subject to referrals or discounts)

–  1-2 horses: $65 per miniature horse or $95 per large horse plus mileage one way (reduced mileage if visiting other farms in area).

–  3-10 horses: $60 per miniature horse or $90 per large horse

– 10 or more horses:  Farm-visit reduced rate applies, price determined at time of appointment

* * No charge for horse not needing dental care following exam (excludes possible mileage charge).

Call or contact Mike for an appointment today at 1-320-583-7636 or mrzfarms@frontiernet.net.

Equine Dental Services

12308 Hwy 4 S,Box174

Cosmos,MN56228

I always like to begin with a quote from my esteemed instructor and Professor, Dale Jeffrey: “If you were to ask a horse the meaning of equine dentistry, they would tell you for the most part it is Freedom from Pain.”

This statement in itself reflects the goal that all equine dental practitioners strive to achieve thru the love, patience, and the understanding of the horse and the horse’s individual needs. A happy horse leads to a happy horse owner. That’s why routine dental care is so important to your horse’s health and well-being. Equine dentistry is my passion and my love to give back to a horse everything that they have given to me.

Periodic examinations and regular maintenance, such as dental floating, are extremely necessary due to the requirements and restrictions that we, as horse owners, have put on our horses today. These requirements and restrictions would include our horse’s diet, our performance needs, our horse’s day to day existence, and our need to enjoy our horse for as long as possible.

The bonuses for dental care include better utilization of the horse’s feed, increased performance, and a longer, more comfortable life.

Into the equine mouth:

The horse’s primary thing to do is eat grass. The horse’s mouth is designed to perform beautifully in this act with the horse’s mouth consisting of the front teeth or incisors, and the cheek teeth or premolars and molars. They also may contain canine and wolf teeth which have outlived their evolutionary needs and perform no real function. Horses may have a total of 44 teeth with the norm being 36 for mares and 40 for stallions and geldings. (This refers to 12 incisors, 24 molars/premolars, 4 canine teeth, and possibly up to 4 wolf teeth.)

Horses are hypsodants:  meaning that the teeth are in constant eruption 1/8” to ¼” per year as long as they have equal and opposite pressure or contact – upper or lower – the term called “wear”. Horse’s teeth “erupt” and are constantly “in wear” throughout their entire lives. “Eruption” is the amount of growth which is normally between 1/8″ to 1/4″ per year and “wear” is the continuous contact with opposing teeth.

The front teeth, or incisors, primary function is to tear or shear off grasses or forage. The function of the cheek teeth, or premolars and molars, is to grind and break down their food before swallowing. They do this grinding in a circular motion which helps to move the foodstuff naturally toward the back of the mouth and into the throat.

Horses have two sets of teeth during their lifetime. They have their baby teeth, or deciduous teeth, and permanent teeth like humans. From age of 2.5 until the horse reaches approximately 5 years of age, they will lose 24 baby, or deciduous teeth, and replace those with 24 permanent teeth. These deciduous teeth include the front incisors and the premolars. The premolars are the first 3 “molars” in the cheek teeth batteries. The deciduous premolar teeth are commonly called “caps”. During this time period, it is very important to have exams done to make sure that all baby teeth and caps are exiting and the permanents are coming in correctly. The permanent tooth is 3 ½” to 4” in length compared to the deciduous or baby teeth or caps which are usually less than 1/2″ in depth. It is recommended that horses under the age of 6 yrs. old be checked twice a year – points develop quicker on young horses due to softer teeth, checking for abnormalities in the mouth: parrot mouth or overbite, monkey mouth or underbite, and wry nose.

The grinding surfaces of the molars and premolars need to be rough and not smooth. This helps with the mastication process or grinding of the foodstuff to breakdown what they are eating. A smooth surface only crushes the foodstuff and does not help with moving it back into the throat. Various articles have suggested that horses chew up to 40,000 times a day which actually aids in the formation of points if there isn’t fibrous foodstuff between the teeth while chewing.

I have included a list of ages that teeth erupt at the end of this article for quick reference.

The upper jaw or maxilla is wider than the lower jaw or mandible which helps to complete the circular grinding it needs to chew its food. Horses can only chew on one side of the mouth at a time and cannot pass their food from one side to the other while chewing.

Signs of Dental Problems common to horses:

There are various signs that your horse may have dental problems. Some are visible and some that are not so visible. I will discuss these signs so that they may be helpful in determining what issues your horse may be experiencing. Granted horses are very adaptive and may not show outward signs but a few that are visible are:

  • Dropping or spilling their feed as they eat
  • “Cudding” or dropping balls of chewed hay, alfalfa, or grass
  • Loss of weight and/or body condition
  • Large bumps on the bottom jaw or sometimes above the upper premolars
  • Tossing of the head during bitting
  • Turning in only one direction very well when ridden or driven
  • Runny nose on one side
  • Foul odor from the mouth
  • Carrying its head cocked
  • Rearing when reins or lines are pulled back on
  • Colic
  • Cribbing
  • Hay/grass stems or particles longer than 1/4″ to 3/8″ in manure
  • Packing hay between cheek teeth and inside of the cheek

These signs can be caused by the following problems:

  • Sharp points on cheek teeth, causing cuts or holes in the cheeks and tongue
  • Caps that have not shed
  • Hooks and ramps on the upper and lower cheek teeth
  • Broken or damaged teeth
  • Infected teeth and gums (Periodontal disease)
  • Food trapped between teeth
  • Colic – not chewing food properly and large unchewed pieces of food passing thru the digestive system
  • Packing can be caused by horses packing foodstuff to alleviate pain from broken/cracked teeth, ulcerations, painful gums

Examinations and Maintenance:

Full mouth examinations should be done yearly for horses over 5 years of age and bi-annually for horses under 5 years and over 15 years of age. Bi-annual exams on horses younger than 6 years are opportune times to check for other abnormalities such as: parrot-mouth or overbite, monkey-mouth or underbite, and wry nose. Due to the amount of deciduous teeth being shed and the permanent teeth replacing these, it is vital to have the mouth checked more often to ensure that the teeth are aligned and coming in correctly. After the age of 5, yearly periodical examinations look for broken or missing teeth, sharp points, hooks or ramps, and other problems that cause pain and discomfort, poor body condition, and low performance. An exam chart is filled out to show the problems (if any) that are encountered and work done. After the age of 15 years (or geriatric), horses should be checked also twice a year for normal dental wear issues along with issues directly related to older horses such as: expiring teeth causing wave mouths, loss of grinding surfaces, and opposing hyper-eruption.

Horse’s teeth “erupt” or grow at a rate of 1/8 to ¼” per year normally. This eruption is normally kept in check by contact with the opposing teeth or what is commonly called “in wear”. This constant contact or “wear” creates sharp points on the molar arcades that necessitates floating of the teeth.  Sharp points on the premolars and molars are caused by the horses constant chewing and need to be removed by floating a horse’s teeth. This consists of rasping off the sharp points and keeps the upper and lower premolars and molars in a level plane (or in occlusion) with each other which keeps the flow of foodstuff flowing in the correct direction toward the back of the mouth and into the throat. The elimination of sharp points aids in the reducing of biting the inside of the cheeks and the sides of the tongue which can cause very painful ulcerations inside the mouth of the horse.

Floating also removes hooks in the front of the premolars and ramps in the back of the molars. These hooks and ramps can stop or restrict the flow of food. They can also cause locking of the jaws and/or not allowing the jaws to rotate correctly. These hooks can also penetrate the soft tissue and/or palates.

Wolf teeth are small premolars that are present in only a few horses. Their presence can cause bit issues and they also can erupt in a variety of positions and locations. These teeth are descendants of prehistoric horses which serve no real purpose.

Discussion Points:

Horse diets: grain vs. grass/hay. We have evolved our horse’s diet from range grasses to highly nutritional pelleted feeds and supplements along with oats and grass or alfalfa. All horses whether running on the range or living in a stall will develop sharp points on their molars and premolars at some point in the lives. Horses running on the range (including Mustangs) eating native grasses and fibrous weeds develop fewer points and Mal-occlusions than horses that are stalled and/or paddock horses feed pelleted feeds and better quality hay and alfalfa. This is due to the fibrous content of their feedstuffs and their continuous hunting for and chewing these possibly lower quality feedstuffs. Horses kept stalled or in groomed pastures and paddocks are fed quick dissolving pellets along with select hay. The groomed pastures and paddocks do not allow for anything other than seeded grasses and clover mixes which do not necessitate the continuous grinding needed to consume therefore not helping to alleviate the Mal-occlusions that are seen with these types of equine.

Extraction of cheek teeth: the extraction of molars/premolars is something that should never be done without serious consideration to the immediate health concerns to the horse, upon the advice of your Veterinarian, and the continued lifetime of equine dental that will be necessary.  Molar arcades function as one large molar without any gaps between teeth. These gaps – periodontal pockets – can cause hyper-eruption, periodontal disease, and gingivitis. Molars should only be removed if they are broken or cracked causing dental abscesses and/or infections. When a molar is removed, the opposing molar no longer has opposition and can erupt quicker than normal or what is called “hyper-eruption”. This hyper-eruption can cause considerable harm if not maintained on a yearly, if not bi-yearly, schedule to keep the tooth equal in height with the rest of the dental arcade.  The removal of molars under the guise of “there isn’t enough room in the horse’s mouth” is not a valid reason to remove molars. Again removal of any teeth should only be under the advice and direction of your Veterinarian.

In closing it’s important to examine your horse’s mouth yearly to make sure that your horse can continue to be happy and healthy.

Ages of the horse’s teeth:

Deciduous (Baby) Teeth

  • 1st or central incisors: Present @ birth-8 days, In wear @ 6-8 weeks
  • 2nd or intermediate incisors: Erupt @6-8 weeks, In wear @ 6-8 months
  • 3rd or corner incisors: Erupt @ 6-8 months, In wear @ 1 year
  • 1st, 2nd, 3rd premolars: Present @ birth – 8 days
  • Wolf teeth (if present): Erupt @ 6-8 months

Permanent Teeth

  • 1st or central incisors: Erupt @ 2.5 years, In wear @ 3 years
  • 2nd or intermediate incisors: Erupt @ 3.5 years, In wear @ 4 years
  • 3rd or corner incisors: Erupt @ 4.5 years, In wear @ 5 years
  • Canines: Erupt @ 4.5 years, In wear @ 5 years
  • 1st premolars: Erupt @ 2.5 years, In wear @ 3 years
  • 2nd premolars: Erupt @ 3.5 years, In wear @ 4 years
  • 3rd premolars: Erupt @ 4.5 years, In wear @ 5 years
  • 1st molar: Erupt @ 1 year, In wear @ 2 years
  • 2nd molar: Erupt @ 2 years, In wear @ 3 years
  • 3rd molar: Erupt @ 3 years, In wear @ 4 years

4 thoughts on “Equine Dental Services

  1. Hello Mike, I am in Central MN Pierz, what is the charge for 1 horse for equine dentistry. My gelding isn’t doing any better after having the vet out twice. We have a busy rodeo schedule for the kids. Maybe if you are in the area end of September, or Oct.

  2. Had Mike out to farm where I am boarding my horses for the winter-they were in need of dental care as they were not keeping weight on in this cold weather (this winter not easy for a lot of them) -Mike not only took the time for the horses but taught us along the way too – showed us the teeth and let us feel the teeth before and after-It was very interesting and he was very patient with the horses-They looked so relieved when he was done! (can a horse look relieved?)-Mary mentioned they are eating much better -putting on some weight and down to 2x a day for extra feed instead of three-(this is just in one week as he was out there on Jan 20th) -thanks again Mike-I have been giving people your name/number-I would highly recommend you and your work-Bernie kemp

  3. Mike, I got your card at the expo and was wondering what the fee would be to come look at a horse(s). I live in S.W. Minn (Jackson county). I have 1 that still is throwing it’s head even I had teeth floated/done. Thanks

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