- 12 incisors
- 4 canines (usually in males only, but occasionally in females... Dr. Leighton has a theory about that...)
- 2-4 "wolf teeth" (the first premolar, variably present, usually just the upper 2)
- 24 "cheek teeth" (premolars and molars, which act together as the main grinding surface).
The incisors and cheek teeth erupt continually throughout the horse's life (we sometimes say the teeth "grow" continuously, but that's not exactly correct - in adult horses, all the tooth is already "grown"). It's necessary for their teeth to continually erupt like this, because horses slowly grind down their teeth on their coarse diet. As they chew, and the teeth are worn down, more tooth erupts to replace it. It's a pretty neat system, huh?
(Did you know that the term "to float" originated from masonry? It was used to describe smoothing or leveling of plaster. So, we are "smoothing and leveling" horse teeth. Thanks, masons!)
And let's not forget, the cheek teeth aren't the only teeth in the mouth! Incisors sometimes need correction, too. Mild corner hooks, which are normal in middle aged horses, can sometimes interfere with lateral movement, and should be adjusted. Loose incisors are fairly common in older horses, especially related to a specific disease called "Equine Odontoclastic Tooth Resorption and Hypercementosis". (Which is a whole 'nother blog topic!)
Some of the concerns we sometimes hear regarding motorized dentistry include: it can be unsafe, take off too much tooth, overheat the teeth, etc. If motorized equipment is used by untrained individuals, those are absolutely valid concerns. The reasons we love motorized equipment are exactly the same things that allow it to be abused: it is quick, and teeth can be removed with relatively little physical effort. With improper training, it is absolutely possible for someone to remove way too much tooth, or heat a tooth to the point of damaging it. We take pride in our experience using this dentistry method. We know how to use the equipment safely and effectively. Used properly, motorized equipment can actually be less traumatic to the mouth than traditional handfloats.