What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Teeth, Sharp Dental Points Felt or Seen


Many horse owners and trainers have learned to slide their finger into the cheek along the outside of the upper cheek teeth (molars) to assess for sharp dental points. What they feel there informs them as to whether or not the horse needs dental work.

This is a poor method for two reasons:

First, a person can only feel the first and possibly second tooth out of a row of six teeth.

Second, sharp dental points on the outside surface of the upper teeth and tongue side of the lower teeth are actually a normal finding in horses. These enamel points are there for a reason. They play an important role in grinding up tough, fibrous grass into digestible fiber lengths.

So, if you feel dental points in the cheek, what does it mean? If they are very sharp and large, it may be an indication that the horse needs a veterinary dental exam. If the tooth surface in the cheek is smooth, it means that a horse has had dental work fairly recently, and that the first tooth is smooth, but it does not mean that there are not problems further back in the mouth.

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    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

your role


What To Do

See the skill "Assess Mouth", which is an improved method for horse owners to look back into their horse's mouths. But understand that it takes a vet, or an equine dentist working under a vet's supervision, to properly assess a horse's mouth.

Assess your horse's mouth as well as you can (wear gloves). Consider whether the horse is demonstrating problems that might suggest that there is a dental problem. Watch the horse eat. Do you notice abnormalities in chewing?

The question is whether these sharp points are causing a horse discomfort and dysfunction. The answer is not always clear. If you believe these sharps are causing problems, or if you see other problems related to chewing, call your vet to discuss your findings and concerns.

What Not To Do

Do not put your hands into the rear of a horse's mouth without instruction in how to do it safely. You risk sustaining a severe bite.

your vet's role

Your vet uses excellent technique and proper lighting to effectively examine the horse's mouth. Once a proper exam is completed, the need for dental work can be determined.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • How long have you noticed this problem?
  • How old is the horse?
  • Does the horse seem to be having difficulty eating or dropping feed?
  • Does the horse appear uncomfortable when they eat?
  • Does the horse take a long time to finish a meal?
  • Has the horse had any dental or mouth issues that you are aware of?
  • Is the horse making strange mouth, lip or tongue gestures?
  • Did you attempt to look in the horse's mouth?
  • Are you noticing any resistance to the bit?
  • What did you see when you looked in the horse's mouth?

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP