Floating is one of the most common aspects of equine dental care. However, to understand why horses need their teeth floated, you first need to understand their anatomy and development.
Much like your own, you can expect your horse’s teeth come through in two different sets. During his years as a foal, he will have approximately 24 ‘baby’ teeth. These will be pushed out by the arrival of his second and last set of teeth which must last him for the duration of his lifetime. Contrary to popular belief, this second batch of teeth do not grow for the duration of his lifetime, but instead erupt very, very slowly.
As a young adult, your equine will have teeth that are between four and five inches long. However, his teeth are much like icebergs, with only a little visible and the majority below the gum line. The remainder will come through at a rate of around 1/8th of an inch every year.
Obviously, this means that eventually, your horse could potentially end up with extremely long teeth. Fortunately, when he eats he will naturally grind his teeth, and this will be a source of constant but gradual erosion. This helps to keep his teeth at a sensible and healthy length.
While chewing will help wear down your horse’s teeth, the rate of erosion is not necessarily equal across the entire set. This can lead to the formation of painful sharp hooks, most often in the back teeth, and he may be unable to close his mouth properly.
‘Floating’ is the process of getting these hooks filed down, and the overall wear on your horse’s teeth made more even. In the past, floating used to be performed using manual files but today, the majority of equine vets use power equipment designed to get the procedure completed quickly and accurately. In most instances, the equipment is used in short, fast sessions with your horse’s teeth being irrigated between them to keep them cool and reduce the likelihood of nerve damage occurring.
It may be possible to sedate your horse if he is particularly stressed or fractious. However, in most cases, floating is able to be performed with only anesthetic rather than sedation. How your animal reacts to the process can vary. Some horses are completely indifferent to having their teeth floated, while others find it stressful. Some even enjoy the procedure! A good veterinarian will ensure that your beloved horse remains as calm and relaxed as possible throughout.
No two animals are the same and so the exact frequency with which you will need to get your horse’s teeth floated may vary. However, most adult horses between the ages of 5 and 20 should have the procedure performed annually. Equines under the age of 5 may need theirs done very 6 months, and those over 20 only as recommended by your vet.
All horses should have their teeth floated in accordance with the guidance provided by their veterinarian regardless of their age, their diet and how often they spend in the pasture.
If you have further questions about the teeth floating process, or you would like to schedule an appointment for your horse to have his teeth floated, please contact our offices.