Your vet will check the foal when it is born to identify any bite or palate issues. Otherwise the first check-up should ideally carried out 3 months prior to ‘backing’ or start of training to allow any wolf teeth present to be removed and the sockets to heal. Wolf teeth appear around 18 months and if not lost through natural shedding by three years of age they will need to be extracted. Due to the variation in size it is best to allow plenty of time for the socket to heal. A first dental examination also removes all sharp points before introducing tack to the cheeks where ulcers may have formed.
Firstly who is to say that wild horses don’t need dentistry, it isn’t available to them and so they must either tolerate discomfort or become weak as a result of poor nutrition and die. Studies have shown that horses eat for up to 18 hours in the wild, domesticated horses may only eat for a fraction of this time from haynets and other artificial sources, this reduced masticatory time means less wear on the teeth allowing greater overgrowth. Finally the type of food fed to horses in domestic situations differs greatly from wild horses which eat high roughage and coarse diets compared to their pampered relations on soft meadow paddocks and selected grass forages.
Young horses teeth grow at a faster rate than older, mature horses therefore we would recommend 6 month check -ups from 3 years of age to around 8 years when the interval can then be extended to 9 or 12 months depending on the horse and its individual circumstances. Older horses should be checked at least once a year, even if less work is required due to reduced growth, to check for any loose or damaged teeth.
All horses should be checked by a qualified equine dental technician or veterinary surgeon at least once a year. That way you can avoid problems arising or deal with them quickly if they do. Leaving a problem until the horse starts to show discomfort is not good management. All horses benefit from routine dental care to ensure optimum comfort and performance.