Equine Dentistry‎ > ‎


Q: My horse has no trouble maintaining weight. In fact he has to be shut off the grass so he won’t need a dental check will he?
A: Definitely! Some of the worst dental problems have been found in fat horses and ponies. All horses 2 ½ years and over require a dental check at least once a year.

Q: I’ve recently had a dentist to treat my horse. She won’t have any dental problems will she?
A: It’s very possible that she will still have dental problems even though she has had recent dental care. This is sadly true as equine dentistry in NZ is an unregulated industry so there is no set standard of practice.

Q: Why do you use a speculum (gag) to keep the horse’s mouth open, my horse’s dentist doesn’t need to do that?
A: The speculum allows safe visual and physical access to all the teeth. If your dentist is treating your horse without one there is no way they can even assess the mouth fully and your horse will be left with dental problems. The speculum is a dentist’s most important instrument.

Q: Why do you get horses sedated for dentistry? My horse is very quiet and doesn’t mind having his teeth rasped.
A: There are several reasons:
  • I need to be able to treat all the teeth. Two common areas that are being insufficiently treated in unsedated horses are: the teeth right at the back of the mouth and the incisors. This leaves horses with major problems!
  • I need the horse to be relaxed and co-operative so that I can fully assess the function of the jaw and the way the grinding surfaces of each pair of teeth meet together. Like a human dentist I need to be able to see into the oral cavity with my light and pinpoint specific areas. A human dentist would have a hard time doing a very good job on your teeth if you were walking around his dental surgery or bobbing your head around. It’s the same for horses. Any small problem left untreated can have far reaching effects on your horse.
  • Much of the time horses are experiencing discomfort due to their existing dental problems and they are naturally defensive of these areas. Unbeknown to you, most of the time these areas are left untreated in unsedated horses. Sedation creates a calm and safe environment for the horse, handler and dentist and access to the all the teeth.
  • It’s easier to treat unsedated horses as it’s quicker, cheaper and requires less organizing but you get substandard results.

Q: What is different about the dentistry that you perform?
A: Full mouth dentistry is much more technical than just removing some of the sharp points and removing caps. It is about providing comfort and function in the temporo-mandibular joints (TMJ’s). For this to happen, Academy trained
dentists understand the biomechanics of horses’ mouths so that ultimately three point balance can be achieved. Any teeth blocking lateral excursion or anterior-posterior movement are problem teeth.

Q: How much does full mouth dentistry cost?

A: That is a hard question to answer as cost depends on the work that needs doing. However my prices start at $80. Most horses would be in the region of $120-180 for a first visit as there is nearly always a lot of work that needs doing (plus costs for sedation to be paid to the vet). That price would reduce at the next ‘maintenance’ visit. It may appear to be a lot of money but to be put into perspective; teeth are just as important as feet to the welfare of your horse and how much do you pay a qualified farrier for shoes over a 12 month period? I’ll leave you to do the maths!

Q: My friend told me her horse has bit seats. What are they?
A: A bit seat is made by symmetrically rounding the first pre-molars to the gum line to provide an area where the horse can more comfortably house the bit in its mouth. This results in less pressure on the tongue. Often when there is pressure on the tongue the horse will wad its tongue back in its mouth putting pressure on the palatal drape. This can have the unwanted effect of partially closing off the airways and often horses will open their mouths to evade the pressure. I recommend bit-seats for all horses that are competing or that are expected to work ‘on the bit’ during their normal activities.

Q: I bought my pony a bit that was labelled ‘pony’ for the size. Do all ponies have the same sized mouth?

A: No! All mouths come in different shapes and sizes. I have a bit measuring stick so that you can accurately know the size of your equine’s mouth. It is common for ponies to be in bits that are up to 4 sizes too small. That can be compared to you wearing shoes that are 4 sizes too small?!?

Q: Why do I need to use full mouth dentistry when I have been riding horses all my life without using it?
A: I would suggest that you have been riding horses that would have been able to perform much better and with less unwanted personality and/or riding traits had they been given full mouth dentistry.