Dental problems are not as visible as, for example, a wound or lameness. But that does not make them any less important to identify and treat. This is because healthy teeth ensure optimum digestion and prevent various other health problems. Therefore, pay close attention to your horse and call on an certified equine dental worker when you notice any of these signs:
- Balled up and/or spilled food. Problems in the mouth often cause pain when eating. The horse compensates with a different chewing motion to avoid the areas that cause him pain. This causes him to ball up or spill more food, which you can then find in his stable.
- Head tilting. In addition to altered chewing motions (as mentioned above), tilting the head while eating can also help the horse to avoid those painful spots.
- Weight loss. Your horse may eat more slowly or less. As a result, he may not get enough energy and he may lose weight. Weight loss does not always have to be caused by a dental problem, it can also be related to other health problems such as worm burden. If, after a check up, it turns out that your horse’s teeth are okay, but has he lost a lot of weight? Then look for the cause together with your veterinarian.
- Odour from mouth or nostrils. Often, foul breath is caused by food that gets stuck between two teeth. This is because there is space between the molars, also called diastasis. The accumulation of feed can cause inflammation of the gums, which is very painful for the horse.
- Swelling on the jaw. This can also be a sign of a diastasis. The food accumulates in such a way that swelling is visible on the outside. Young horses may have lumps on their jaws, but this has to do with changing their molars and is therefore harmless. If the lump/swelling is asymmetrical or painful, you should have it checked.
- Unilateral (smelly) nasal discharge. This may indicate a jaw infection, also called sinusitis. The inflammatory secretion (often yellow in colour) comes out through the nostril. There are various causes for this disorder, one of which may be an inflamed tooth.
- Ridden problems. You can imagine that a horse with a painful mouth does not like to wear a bit. For example, the horse may have difficulty accepting the bit. Other signs of dental problems that you might notice in riding are: rearing, difficulty bending, opening the mouth (when the noseband and flash are not tightened excessively), tilting the head, grabbing the bit or headshaking.
You can prevent many problems by having your horse checked annually by a certified equine dental worker.