Horses need regular preventive dental maintenance every six months to one year. Unlike people, horses' teeth have an eruption rate of 2-3 mm per year. The teeth should wear in correspondence to the yearly eruption rate. With modern horsekeeping practices, horses are often not kept on pastures or given enough hay to provide adequate, even wear. The resulting uneven wear causes sharp points and edges causing discomfort to your horse. Malocclusions, or improper position of the teeth, can also lead to many health issues and behavioral problems.
Identifying dental problems as early as possible is important. Early on, an owner may just notice a "loss of power steering" in a normally well trained or responsive animal. Later, people will notice - loss of food while eating; eats hay before his grain; grain in water bucket; difficulty chewing or excess salivation; loss of body condition; large undigested food particles in manure larger than one quarter inch; head tilting or tossing; bit chewing; tongue lolling; tries to rear while bridling; fighting the bit or resisting the bridal; bucking or failing to stop or turn; foul odor from the mouth or nostrils; traces of blood in the mouth; or nasal discharge or swelling of the face. Some horses may not show these extreme signs, because they just simply adapt to their discomfort.
If you show your horse in events, dental care can make a huge difference in his or her performance. However, the benifits of dental care doesn't stop there. All horses benifit from dental care that shows up in weight maintenance and less wasting of food. Brood mares maintain better weight on pasture with sound teeth, and may require less supplimental food sources. Dental care in older horses becomes even more important as their digestive tracts become less effective.
Proper dental "floating" or filing often requires sedation. Your veterinarian cannot do a thorough exam or properly adjust your horse's teeth while he is throwing his head or biting on the files and tools that are used. It is much safer for you and your horse if the veterinarian is allowed to use sedation and a mouth speculum. The quality of the work will be that much better. It will also proceed quicker and with less irritation to the gum tissues, allowing an earlier return to work for your partner.
Dental floating and teeth extractions are required by Louisiana law to be done under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian. This is because fractures to teeth and improperly extracted teeth can cause serious sinus and bone infection. Also, improper floating technique may cause tooth and/or gum damage. Lastly, tranquilizers are "scheduled" medications that can only be perchased on the order of a veterinarian, and thier use should be monitored by a veterinarian as many tranquilizers can be harmful or fatal if overdosed or given by the wrong route ( accidentally giving Xylazine in the carotid artery instead of the jugular vein, for instance).