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


Retained or Loose Deciduous Baby Incisor Front Tooth


You look into your young horse's mouth and notice what appears to be a thin, loose "shell" on top of one or several front teeth. Often there is feed material packed behind it.

This is likely a retained baby incisor tooth or "cap." Normally, these caps are shed over the first few years of life, as the permanent teeth erupt underneath and elevate them away from the gums.

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your role


What To Do

In most cases, you should not do anything. Usually, nature takes care of this and human interference can cause more harm than good.

However, if the horse is having trouble eating or showing any sign of discomfort that might be associated with a cap, take a photo and share it with your vet for discussion.

If the cap is very loose and the horse seems irritated by it, you may remove it by gently pulling it out with your fingertips. However, if more force is required or you are not confident in safely reaching into your horse's mouth, leave it alone.

What Not To Do

Do not attempt to remove any but the most loose cap, i.e. one that can easily be pulled away with only your fingertips.

Do not use tools to remove caps without the involvement of a veterinarian or technician working under the direct supervision of a vet.

Do not aggressively remove any cap without a good understanding of why you are doing it.

your vet's role

Your vet will conduct a dental exam, evaluate the affected tooth (or teeth) and determine whether or not the loose cap(s) needs to be manually removed or left alone.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • Does the horse have difficulty chewing or eating?
  • Is the horse also spilling or dropping feed, or quidding?
  • Has the horse had any dental or mouth issues that you are aware of?
  • When was your horse's last veterinary dental examination?
  • Can you send a photo?

Diagnostics Your Vet May Perform

Figuring out the cause of the problem. These are tests or procedures used by your vet to determine what’s wrong.

Very Common
more diagnostics

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP