In the adult horse, where all of the teeth have erupted, several common problems can develop. Horses naturally chew their food in an elliptical fashion, with the ‘grinding’ part of the cycle occurring during the sideways movement. In the wild, when chewing forage, the extent of the sideways motion (lateral excursion) is large, covering the whole of the grinding surface of the teeth, including the edges. In domesticated horses this lateral excursion can be reduced, and the horse doesn’t tend to grind right to the edges of the teeth every time.
The tooth surface therefore gets worn away quicker than the edges, and these become long and sharp. Because of their angled shape, the outside edge becomes sharp on the upper teeth, and the inside edge becomes sharp on the lower teeth. It is these sharp edges that your dental practitioner will often treat first by a process known as ‘floating’. Floating involves using rasps to smooth any abnormally sharp areas of the cheek teeth. To get to all the different teeth in the mouth a variety of rasps of different angles, shapes and lengths will be have to be employed. Every practitioner has an array of their favourite instruments and their own individual floating routine.
In most cases the removal of sharp enamel edges and points will be all that is required during a routine check-up. Occasionally, focal overgrowths of certain teeth may need to be addressed: the most commonly encountered type are ‘hooks’, which usually affect the first upper, and last lower cheek teeth.