How Common are Dental Abnormalities in Horses?

Researchers found that 59.2% of horses aged 11 to 15 had hooks, 30.8% had wave mouth, and 26.7% had periodontal pockets.

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How Common are Dental Abnormalities in Horses?
To reduce a horse’s chances for developing dental diseases or abnormalities, Chinkangsadarn suggests increasing grazing time and feeding on the ground rather than in elevated feeders. | Photo: iStock
Before domestication, horses grazed for 16 to 18 hours a day. Pulling, biting, and chewing a variety of forages naturally maintained their tooth edges and rounded off sharp edges—essentially, it helped keep horses’ teeth healthy.

“Free-roaming horses use their teeth harder and longer when eating fresh grass as compared with a pelleted feed,” explained Teerapol Tum Chinkangsadarn, DVM, a PhD candidate at the University of Queensland School of Veterinary Science, in Australia. “The domestication of horses has limited their grazing time, which has led to an increase in dental diseases or abnormalities.”

To get a better idea of just how prevalent dental abnormalities are in domestic horses, Chinkangsadarn and colleagues examined the skulls of 400 horses, ranging in age from 1 to 30 years, presented to an abattoir (slaughterhouse) in Queensland.

The team determined that horses aged 11 to 15 had the highest occurrence of dental disease and abnormalities. Of those, 59.2% had hooks, 30.8% had wave mouth, and 26.7% had periodontal pockets (severe gum disease)

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Written by:

Katie Navarra has worked as a freelance writer since 2001. A lifelong horse lover, she owns and enjoys competing a dun Quarter Horse mare.

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