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Horses are grazing animals; because of this, their teeth are essential to their well-being. A full-grown horse has between 36 and 44 teeth, but are baby horses born with teeth?
Foals (baby horses) typically are born with no teeth; however, central incisors are sometimes present. Foals get teeth quickly; typically, they grow two incisors in the upper jaw and two in the lower jaw within eight days of birth.
Although baby horses are born without teeth, their teeth start arriving in rapid succession. The development of their teeth continues over the next five years of their life.
Baby horses have 24 teeth by their first birthday.
First Year of Teeth Development
In their first year of life, baby horses grow 24 teeth, but these are only temporary teeth and are often called milk teeth or deciduous teeth. Milk teeth are wider than they are tall are shaped like a dome.
The first teeth of a foal are two upper and two lower incisors and will typically display themselves within the first eight days. Anywhere from six to eight weeks, the second set of teeth are present.
These teeth are the foals’ “middle incisors.” Diet, including grass, hay, and feed, influences baby horses’ teeth’ strength and mineral composition. A study of ten foals’ teeth confirmed the impact of diet and teeth strength.
Baby horses also develop twelve premolars, three on each side of the top and bottom jaws, within two weeks of age. A foal will add two more incisors in each jaw from six to eight months of age, outside the others. These are the corner incisors.
The foal now has its full set of baby teeth, 24–six upper and six lower incisors, and six upper and six lower premolars. These are all temporary or milk teeth.
All the teeth have “cups” or small concavities at their tips. These little dips disappear as the teeth wear and are a critical factor in determining the age of a horse. (Click here to learn more about how to determine a horse’s age by looking at its teeth.)
By the time baby horses turn one, their first incisors have lost their cups–they’ve worn down, and the tips are smooth; however, the second and third incisors still retain cups. Permanent teeth replace all of the horses’ baby teeth by five years old.
Baby horses’ teeth should be checked early.
Is a dental exam necessary for a foals’ baby teeth?
Baby horses should have a dental exam during their first wellness examination, occurring within the first weeks after birth. The vet should look at the teeth to ensure the presence of the incisors and premolars. The mouth should be examined for congenital issues, such as parrot mouth and cleft palates.
Corrective treatment for certain diseases of a horse’s mouth is more likely to succeed when treated early in the horse’s life. One study of young horses found that twenty-four percent had some form of dental abnormality regardless of showing symptoms.
Proper examination and routine care can prevent most equine dental problems. A healthy mouth protects against digestive disorders such as colic, weight loss, and poor feed utilization.
Neglected teeth in performance horses can be adversely affected their ability to compete. A horse with points on the edges of its molars may not be able to flex at the poll because the points prevent the lower jaw from moving forward to close the throat latch angle.
Providing routine dental care is essential to the development of healthy horses. A healthy mouth can help prevent the incidence of digestive problems such as colic, weight loss, and poor feed utilization.
A good mouth is also essential to the success of performance horses; for example, a horse with hooks (enamel points on edges of upper or lower molars) may not be able to slide the lower jaw forward to close the angle at the throat latch when asked to flex at the poll.
Young horses can have a lot of dental problems.
Common dental abnormalities in young horses under two years old
Parrot mouth is a congenital condition in which the upper jaw is longer than the lower jaw. It results in the development of hooks on upper and lower molar teeth that need to be removed.
In addition, the upper and lower incisors don’t meet the way they should and fail to wear correctly, resulting in abnormal tooth growth; consequently, a dentist must shorten them.
Sow-mouth is the opposite of parrot mouth; in these instances, the lower jaw protrudes further than the upper jaw, causing the lower teeth to protrude forward. Horses with sow-mouth fail to close their mouths correctly and develop abnormal tooth growth.
A foal with wry-nose has an upper jaw, and nose deviated or turned to one side, resulting in misalignment of the horses’ teeth, although most foals are still able to nurse. A deviated nasal septum is also present and typically results in obstruction of the airway and difficulty breathing.
Supernumerary teeth are the presence of extra teeth in a horses’ mouth. This is not a common occurrence in horses but a condition to be aware of.
Hooks develop when the molars are not aligned. Hooks are typically caused by an over-bite or under-bite (parrot mouth or sow mouth) of the incisor arcades.
When a horses’ tooth has no opposition, it will not wear down as it should. In many cases, hooks can be ground or floated so the teeth work properly.
Ramped cheek teeth are similar to hooks but with a more gradual slope to the tooth and can be on the front or back, upper or lower molars. Ramps on the first lower cheek teeth can lead to pinching the soft tissue with contact on the reins.
Ramps also inhibit the natural anterior-posterior movement of the lower jaw, which is particularly important for ridden horses. Ramps can create problems for the jaw hinge joint.
Sometimes an infection or cysts will arise in the eruption area of a new tooth.
Avulsed incisors are the complete displacement of the tooth from its socket. It occurs most often because of trauma, and extraction is the typical treatment.
Sharp enamel points
Sharp enamel points typically develop on the inside of the lower molars and outside of the upper molars. They develop over time, and the sharp ends are caused by the way a horse chews. The method of chewing leads to the edge tooth growing longer and forming razor-sharp points.
Impacted wolf teeth
Unerupted wolf teeth can be painful when the mucosa is compressed against the tooth by a bit. Wolf teeth are often extracted.
Horses get wolf teeth between 5-12 months.
Wolf teeth typically erupt between the ages of five and 12 months. It’s estimated that approximately only 70 percent of horses have wolf teeth. The teeth usually emerge in the upper jaw two to three centimeters in front of the first premolars.
Some wolf teeth interfere with a horse’s bit and cause pain. Most people have their horses’ wolf teeth extracted to avoid the bit interference and the suffering created by the teeth. These teeth don’t serve any purpose, and removal doesn’t affect chewing.
To read more about horses’ teeth, check out my other article: Horse Teeth – What Kind, How Many, & Much More!
What is a baby horse called?
Foals. All baby horses are called foals, but male baby horses are also referred to as colts and females fillies. Once a foal passes its first birthday, they are called yearlings. To learn more, read this article: What is a Baby Horse Called?
What is the difference between a pony and a baby horse?
A pony doesn’t exceed 14.2 hands in height, and a baby horse, when fully grown, is over 14.2 hands tall. Ponies typically have thicker coats and denser bones than baby horses. To learn more about the differences between ponies and horses, check out this article: 10 Differences Between Ponies and Horses: Size, Breeds …