Floating a Horses Teeth

Floating a horse's teeth? What the heck is that? New horse owners might hear this mysterious phrase being tossed around the barn and wonder what it means.

Essentially, floating a horse's teeth is to file them using a special kind of Rasp or File referred to as a "float". Unlike humans, horses' teeth continue to grow over time. A horse's upper jaw is wider than it's lower jaw so upper and lower teeth do not meet each other evenly. The upper teeth have more wear on the inside, leading to longer sharp edges on the outside and the opposite is true for the bottom teeth. This can sometimes lead to sharp edges or hooks that can inhibit proper chewing and digestion leading to poor absorption of nutrients and then weight loss. These sharp edges can also cause pain by rubbing the inside of the horse's cheek or their tongue and may cause serious discomfort when they have a bit in their mouth.

It is important to have your horse's teeth checked by your veterinarian at least yearly. Your vet will suggest an appropriate schedule to meet your particular horse's needs. Some horses seem to have faster growing teeth than others and floating requirements might range from months to years.

The procedure itself is fairly quick and painless although many horses are distressed by it and may require sedation. Your vet will help you make the decision whether or not to tranquilize your horse. The vet may use a simple pulley system with a rope attached to the halter and then thrown up over a ceiling beam to keep the tranquilized horse's head up or she may have an assistant hold it up instead. Your veterinarian, equine dentist, or someone specially trained to float teeth will then use either a wedge or mouth speculum to keep your horse's mouth open. She then looks and feels for sharp edges on the teeth and sores in the mouth and then uses a rasp or "float" or a special power tool to file the teeth flat to provide a smooth chewing surface.


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And, if you are wondering if this feels anything like when you have your teeth scraped at the dentist, rest assured, it should be a pain free experience for your horse. Horses have no nerve endings close to the surface of the tooth. The whole procedure usually only takes about 15 or 20 minutes.

Like with humans, it is better to see the dentist before problems start. Give your vet a call to schedule a routine dental check-up for your horse.