12 Ways To Figure That Your Horse Needs A Dental Checkup

How can you tell that your horse needs a dental checkup? He often tells you, but you may mistake it for bad or strange behavior.

You can discipline your horse or put him on a leash to get him to pay attention to the bit. You can also change the bit, put martingales or ties, or use other aids to keep your horse’s head in place. You can change the feed, buckets, or other aspects of your horse’s environment. However, it may also be that your horse is behaving strangely or doing strange things because he is uncomfortable or in pain.

Ideally, have your horse’s teeth examined by a professional at least once a year. Know the signs that it’s time to see a dentist or equine veterinarian check your horse’s teeth, even if it’s been less than a year.

Restlessness with the bit

A horse fidgeting with the bit may be responding to discomfort caused by the bit or, as in the case of head jerking, to dental problems that make holding the bit uncomfortable. Sometimes, the problem may also be the presence of supernumerary teeth and your horse will need a bit of adjustment or extraction of the teeth. 

Spitting up hay.

A horse is said to spit out hay bales it has already chewed. A childish horse does not swallow or feed well. This can cause the horse to lose condition, as its nutritional needs are not fully met.

Head shaking

There are several reasons why your horse may shake his head when you ride him. He may react to the way you are guiding the reins. He may have trouble carrying the bit, or he may have dental problems that cause discomfort all the time or only when he carries the bit.

Weight loss and general poor health

If your horse can’t chew properly, he won’t be able to absorb all the nutrients he needs from fibrous feed such as grass or hay. Poor teeth can contribute to weight loss. A horse that cannot chew properly is also prone to gagging and impaction colic.

Eating slowly

If your horse has broken teeth, swollen gums, sore cheeks, or any other oral discomfort caused by dental problems, he may chew his food too slowly. This can lead to weight loss and poor nutrition, especially if he is harassed in any way, for example, by other horses trying to take food from him.

Jumping, carelessness, and scares.

Some horses cannot tolerate pain and react with resistance. Some become fearful and run away at the slightest distraction. Others are quite stoic and endure a lot, so regular grooming is important.

Spilled grains

A horse that eats by spilling or throwing grain may be anxious about his food. It may also try to watch for other horses that might try to steal its food. Or the horse may simply have difficulty keeping the grains in its mouth and chewing them due to dental problems. Because the grains cannot be properly crushed (or chewed), ingestion may occur.

Bad odors

If your horse’s mouth or nose gives off a bad odor, suspect an infection of the gums or other parts of the mouth. This could be the only sign of a possible problem that requires treatment with dental work and antibiotics. 


Horses may drool or dislodge from the mouth after eating plants with fungus or other irritating substances. There may also be something lodged in the gums or under the tongue, or the horse may have a dental problem. Some horses drool when their mouth is full, and this is quite normal. However, if you are unsure, it is probably best to see a veterinarian or equine dentist.

Sinus discharge

It is normal for a small stream of clear or slightly milky fluid to come out of your horse’s nose. An unpleasant runny nose can be a sign not only of sinusitis but also of dental inflammation. Your veterinarian will help you find the cause of the discharge and advise you on the best treatment.

Head shyness

If your horse is head shy and refuses to be handled, groomed, or bridled, the cause could be a painful dental problem.


Horses with dental problems may be reluctant to drink cold water. Lack of water can cause choking and colic, and it is difficult to get all the necessary nutrients from the feed. If you suspect a dental problem, it may be advisable to moisten your horse’s feed and provide warm water until a professional can correct the problem.

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