12-Point Dental Exam You can Do
THE WAY OF HORSES
By Eleanor Blazer
Copyright @ 2009
Healthy, mature horses have to go to the dentist too!
Or, at least have the dentist come to them.
Is it annual checkup time for your horse…Is he flossing?
Horses younger than five years of age, seniors or horses with
a history of dental problems should be examined twice a year.
Use this simple check list to detect potential problems between
1. Watch your horse eat. Does he drop grain or tilt his head
to the side while chewing? Does he dunk his hay in the water?
Such behaviors are signs of potential problems.
2. Stand in front of your horse (with him restrained) and compare
one side of his head to the other. Be careful he doesn't throw
his head and hit you. You are checking for symmetry (one side
balanced with the other). Make a note of any swellings or indentations
that are on one side, but not the other.
3. Use your finger tips and palpate gently around the temporalis
muscle (located above each eye) and masseter (large muscle covering
the jaw). Compare muscles for similar size and note any soreness.
If the muscles are more developed on one side, this may be a
sign that your horse prefers to chew on that side.
4. Check the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) for a pain. It's
located below the ear; where the lower jaw is "hinged".
5. Check parotid salivary gland and lymph nodes for inflammation
and swelling. The parotid salivary gland is located in the throatlatch
area. The lymph nodes are located under the jaw and usually
associated with the familiar swelling that occurs with strangles.
6. Examine the full length of the lower jaw, make note of any
hard swellings or soreness.
7. Place your fingers on either side of the cheek about where
the back teeth start. Gently feel along the side of his jaw.
See if you can feel the top and bottom row of molars. Go down
the top row...gently palpating...note any soreness. Repeat the
exam on the bottom row of teeth.
8. Observe the eyes and nostrils for unusual discharge or swelling.
9. Lift the lips and note the color of the gums. They should
be a nice healthy pink.
10. Inspect the incisors. Note how many are present and the
alignment. By the age of five there should be six permanent
incisors, top and bottom, for a total of 12.
11. Smell your horse's breath. It should be pleasant enough…no
foul or excessively strong odor.
12. Try to inspect the cheek teeth (molars). The best way to
see the molars is to gently grasp the tongue, pull it out so
you get a good look in. To move the tongue, insert your fingers
at the corner of the horse's mouth – where the interdental
gap (the bars) is located. Grasp the tongue. Gently pull the
tongue out and to the side. Now you should be able to look inside
the mouth. If you have trouble, ask your veterinarian or equine
dentist for assistance. To view a video, please visit: http://www.learningabouthorses.com/videos/tongue.html
Look for hooks, missing teeth, feed packed between the molars
and cheek, and inflammation.
Call your veterinarian or equine dentist if you find discomfort
or anything questionable.
We all hate a visit with the dentist, but putting it off will
make it worse.
by Eleanor Blazer
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