What Does it Mean to Float a Horse’s Teeth?

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For the uninitiated, floating a horse’s teeth may seem as alien as flowing a boat’s sails. Although it might conjure up images of ethereal dental practices, it’s an essential part of equine care that every horse owner and fan should be well-versed in. This extensive guide is not only for horse owners who want to learn more about the importance of equine dental care but also for veterinary students keen on deepening their knowledge of this critical animal healthcare practice.

What Does it Mean to Float a Horse's Teeth?

Understanding the Dental Care Necessity

Dental care in horses is often an overlooked facet of equine health. Yet, it is crucial for maintaining the horse’s dental health and overall health and well-being. Proper dental care ensures that horses can chew and digest their food effectively, preventing or alleviating pain and discomfort associated with various dental issues. This care may involve routine maintenance, known as floating, filing down a horse’s teeth to smooth out sharp edges or uneven surfaces that could cause injury during chewing.

The Nuances of Floating

Defining the Float

In the context of equine dentistry, floating is reshaping the horse’s teeth with specialized tools. The primary tool used is a “float,” which can be hand-held or motorized and can lead to significant harm if not done correctly. The term “float” originates from using a file, called a float, to rebalance the horse’s teeth, much like filing or smoothing wood or metal.

The ‘Why’ of Floating

Floating is twofold: to prevent or correct malocclusions, the term for misaligned teeth, and to address the development of sharp points or hooks on the teeth. These can occur due to the circular grazing pattern of the horse’s chewing motion and can cause discomfort, ulcers, and sores in the mouth and impede the horse’s ability to chew food effectively.

The Teeth Tell a Story

A horse’s teeth can be indicative of its overall health and physiology. Understanding when and how to float them involves recognizing the signs of dental irregularities, which can manifest in several ways.

Indicators of Dental Distress

Horses needing dental care may start exhibiting behavioural changes like head tilting, tossing or even resistance to the bit or bridle. Weight loss and difficulty eating can also be signs of dental trouble, alongside more overt symptoms such as drooling, coughing, or swelling of the face.

What to Look for

To assess if a horse needs dental care, one should also look for signs of oral discomfort, such as a reluctance to eat hard feed or a preference for feed that is easier to swallow. Audible pain markers, like grinding teeth or flinching when chewing, should be checked immediately by a professional.

The Nitty-Gritty of Dental Issues

Horses can suffer from various dental problems that demand floating and other treatments to rectify.

Common Dental Ailments


These are inherent abnormalities in the alignment of the horse’s teeth. These can result in uneven wear and can only be corrected through floating or even extractions in some severe cases.

Sharp Points and Hooks

Regular floating is necessary to prevent the formation of sharp enamel points that can lacerate or ulcerate the cheek or tongue or cause interference with proper chewing.

Gum Disease and Infections

These can result from food packing between misaligned teeth or structures such as hooks and points, leading to periodontal disease, which, left untreated, can cause dental and potentially systemic health troubles.

What Does it Mean to Float a Horse's Teeth?

Riding the Benefits of Regular Dentistry

Routine dental examinations and floating sessions can benefit the horse, owner, and caretaker substantially.

Ensuring Smooth Meal Times

A horse with properly floated teeth can consume and process its feed efficiently, ensuring proper nutrition and comfort while eating.

Preventing Dental Dilemmas

Dental maintenance can help avoid common dental problems that might worsen over time, saving the horse from undue pain and allowing the owner to avoid the mounting costs of treating severe dental issues.

Boosting Health and Performance

Good oral health can significantly impact the horse’s overall health, energy levels, and performance — whether galloping in a field or taking on the rigours of competition.


The health of a horse’s teeth and the care they require could be likened to the silent foundation of a majestic edifice. Unseen, yes, but pivotal for the entire structure’s integrity and longevity. Every horse owner’s equine care plan should include regular consultation with a veterinarian or an equine dental specialist. As advocates for these beautiful creatures, our duty lies in learning, practising, and advocating for equine dental care.

For questions, insights, or if your horse is exhibiting signs that might require dental care, it’s always best to reach out to professionals who can ensure your equine’s chompers are as equitably aligned as its gallop.

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