Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Cheek Tooth or Molar, Fractured or Broken

Fractures of the cheek teeth crowns occurs rarely in horses. While traumatic injury can result in a fracture, usually there is underlying dental disease that contributes to it. Often the fractured tooth has been weakened by infection or abnormal wear from poor occlusion.

Small fractures of the grinding surface may not cause any problem and may simply be monitored. However, deeper fractures may require veterinary attention. They may involve the deeper structures of the tooth (pulp cavities), allowing bacterial infection of the root and result in the death of the tooth.

Often, cracked crowns are “incidental findings” on a careful dental exam. In other cases, they are discovered after a horse shows clinical signs of nasal discharge, head swelling or difficulty eating.

Diagnosis requires a thorough dental exam, with good light and a mirror. Radiographs are often needed. In some cases, advanced imaging like CT is required to fully understand the extent of a fracture and the resulting dental disease.

Treatment depends on severity of crack and the associated disease. Often dental extraction is required.


  • Does the tooth need to be removed?
  • Should I expect to see any problems caused by this crack?

    Horses with good mouths are less likely to have dental problems. So prevention starts with selection of good horses. Oral and dental exam are part of a veterinary pre-purchase exam.

    Routine dental assessment and management may reduce the likelihood of abnormal wear in the mouth and weakening of teeth.

    Small tooth fractures should be detected and treated before they progress to more serious dental infection.

    Helpful Terms & Topics in HSVGWritten, Reviewed or Shared by Experts in Equine Health

    Helpful Outside ResourcesCredible Equine Health Information on the Internet

    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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