What Does It Mean to Float Teeth?
Horses have different dental care requirements than dogs and cats. Like dogs and cats though, the health of the teeth affect the health, function, and behavior of the entire animal. Horse’s teeth keep growing. Eating wears the teeth down, but uneven edges can develop; causing sores on the cheeks and tongue. Floating the teeth is when a metal rasp is used to file down these rough edges. The filing doesn’t hurt (no nerves there). Horse teeth should be examined annually and floated if necessary to reduce pain, mouth odor, problems with wearing a bit, problems eating and weight loss.
In order to efficiently grind their food, horses’ upper molars are spaced a little farther apart than their lower teeth. While important in the wild, this offset can produce problems in the domestic horse. Horses on alfalfa and less fibrous feeds tend to chew less and the material which they are eating is generally less abrasive. Accordingly, there will be surfaces which do not get polished off evenly. Raised edges may appear along the edges of the molars; typically along the outside of the upper set and the inside of the lower set. When these “unground surfaces” get large the horse cannot rock his lower jaw laterally as he chews due to his teeth being locked between the opposing ridges. Thus the problem self-propagates, the ridges slowly appear larger as they are no longer being worn down, and as the horse rubs these ridges when chewing, he’s actually wearing down the sides of these ridges into sharp points.
These points can be quite razor-like, actually cutting deep into one’s finger when rubbed across them while inspecting the mouth. These sharp points they often cut into the horse’s cheeks when they chew and cause soreness where a bit or halter pushes the cheek against a sharp tooth. They can also cause slab fractures which are discussed later in this section.