Conditions or ailments that are the cause of a problem that you see - your observation.

Your vet may diagnose

Dental Overgrowths, Sharp Enamel Points

Synonyms: Dental Malocclusion


A horse's permanent teeth erupt throughout life. The "reserve crown" is that major part of the tooth (the equivalent of the root) that is embedded in the bone of the upper or lower jaw. The large grinding teeth have a block shaped surface with ridges of hard enamel along their grinding surface. The enamel ridges become sharp with wear and this allows the teeth to efficiently grind and cut grass and coarse feed. The upper rows of teeth are spaced somewhat wider than the lower. This means enamel points develop on the outside (cheek side) of the upper teeth and the inside (tongue side) of the lower teeth.

Depending upon a variety of factors (quality of occlusion or bite, type of feed, genetics) the enamel ridges can become overgrown. This can cause an inability of the jaws (molar rows) to slide well against one another, and can cause pain and wounding of the cheeks and tongue. This results in inefficient and painful chewing, and in severe cases can cause malnutrition and weight loss.

In addition, certain dental overgrowths can cause pain or discomfort with bitting.

DIAGNOSIS- always requires dental examination. Proper examination requires that the mouth is cleaned of feed, the use of an excellent light source, and in some cases manual palpation (feeling) of the teeth. Depending on practitioner experience and preference, sedation and the use of a speculum may be required even for that basic assessment. For very DETAILED examination of the teeth, sedation and a full mouth speculum is ALWAYS needed.

TREATMENT- involves selective removal or reduction of overgrown dental points, hooks. There is a wide range of opinion about what constitutes proper equine dental maintenance. Ramps, waves and high teeth may be reduced variably, depending on situation and practitioner philosophy and training.

my vet's role


The prognosis for horses with dental overgrowths is excellent with appropriate diagnosis and treatment. Horses that have not had proper dental care over years may end up with severe overgrowths that may or may not be treatable. Examples are severe wave mouth, and wear of teeth to the gum line by "dominant" opposing teeth.

What causes some horses to have large dental overgrowths and need frequent dental maintenance, while others need far less attention? This mainly relates to the meeting of the upper and lower cheek teeth rows. Whereveer there is poor occlusion (meeting) overgrowths should be expected.

my role


I might observe

You might make these observations when a horse has this condition.

Very Common
Less Common
more observations

Questions To Ask Your Vet:
  • Are dental overgrowths really the cause of my horse not gaining weight or losing weight?
  • Can I expect to see my horse gain weight specifically because of removing the dental overgrowths?
  • Should I expect to see an improvement in my horse's performance because of treatment of these dental overgrowths?
  • Could something else be causing my horse's resistance to the bit?
  • Could something else be causing my horse's weight loss?

A balanced approach to dental maintenance in the horse starts with a careful dental examination at least once annually.

Some horses with abnormalities may require more frequent dental examinations and treatment.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP