A crash course in molar management.
Let's start at the beginning, with the term float which is a Greek word. Masons float cement; it means to level. That's the general idea behind most dental procedures. Why do horses need their teeth floated? They have twenty four Molars and Premolars that are always erupting and wearing away. It's a great system except the teeth don't always meet well. Where teeth don't meet well hooks or enamel points develop. Hooks eventually begin to cut the cheek or tongue. These hooks should be filed off and blended back into the tooth . Another frequently seen problem is when one or more molars overgrow; perhaps it's because there is not an opposing tooth. Sometimes the opposing tooth is weaker due to some flaw. Whatever the reason an overgrowing tooth is a problem. The tooth must be filed back to where it belongs or it will cause trouble. Teeth are prematurely lost and the mechanics of the mouth are impaired if these problems aren't addressed. Addressing these problems through floating should be 99% of a lay dentists business.
Wolf Teeth are vestigal molars that no longer are used for chewing food. They almost always develop in the upper bar immediatley ahead of the 2nd premolar (1st cheektooth). They should be removed before young horses are broke to ride or drive. They will never cause a problem during eating because they are not involved in chewing. If they fail to break through the gum, they are called blind wolf teeth. Blind wolf teeth should be removed if there are training issues.
Canine Teeth/Tushes/Tusks Are usually found in stallions and gelding, mares sometimes have small immature canine teeth. In the wild they are a fighting tooth; however, for domesticated horses of today, they are nuisance. Though it's necessary to give them a blunter shape, they pose little risk injuring a horse. The greater risk is to the rider during tacking up. They should be reduced slowly over time.
Incisors are in the front of the mouth . They are used for cutting grasses when grazing . Until recently they received little attention from lay dentists. Lately, a theory is gaining some adherents that suggests the filing of the incisors will relieve pain in temporomandibular joint or TMJ. There is no evidence to back up these claims.
Bits Seats are the shaping of the second premolars to enhance the horses comfort when wearing the bridle.
Modern testing comfirms the value of a well floated mouth
A study at the University of Saskatchewan found another positive effect of a well floated mouth. Floating seems to increase the mobility in a horses jaw, which may account for the improved performance after a floating. The researchers studied the effects of floating 59 horses with no previous history of dental problems. Measurements were taken of each horse's rostrocaudal mobility or the degree to which the jaw moves forward and backward. These measurement suggest what flexibility could be expected at the pole. Next 33 horse were floated while the remainder were left untouched to serve as controls. When the rostrocaudal mobility was again checked, a striking difference emerged. 31 of the 33 horses had an average of 3 millimeters increase in jaw mobility. How might this benefit the horse/athelete? This increased mobility should make it easier for the dressage horse (as an example) to adopt and maintain a frame.
Any Traditional Equine Dentist must have excellent horse handling skills. Working alone, in the stall, with the patient the TED can develop a connection with each horse, gaining their trust and cooperation. A reputable TED will use a series of floats with fresh, sharp blades to reduce all areas of sharpness and any high teeth. As the floating progresses most patients will relax and often aid in their own care by dropping their heads and remaining quiet. Any TED will use a full mouth speculum and be able to fit it to each horse with very little fuss. Most horses have no fear of the speculum when it's applied by a trained professional. The floating should progress with the TED using a series of different floats, there are currently ten in my bucket, to address all aspects of the molar arcades evenly. Rarely should there be any bleeding or fighting with the patient. Once the floating is over the patient should return to eating and working with improvement often noted in both areas . There should never be a prolonged recovery time necessary after a TED float. Low stress and high yield are the hallmark features of a Traditional Equine Dentist .