Wolf teeth in horses

5 March 2023

Wolf teeth in horses

Wolf teeth are rudimentary molars found in a portion of our horses. Numerous misconceptions prevail about these teeth. A first misconception is that they only occur in male animals. However, wolf teeth are seen in both stallions and mares. A second misconception is the age at which these teeth appear. This is much earlier than what most people think! The majority of wolf teeth appear in the mouth during the first year of life or shortly thereafter.

In addition, wolf teeth can occur in both the upper (more frequent) and lower jaw (less frequent). Some of the wolf teeth never break through the overlying mucosa and are called blind wolf teeth. These blind wolf teeth are often oriented differently. Waiting for these to erupt (often advised!) is usually futile.

Wolf's teeth are underdeveloped teeth, an evolutionary inheritance like e.g. also splint bones and ergots (all 'underdeveloped toes' of the horse). They no longer contribute to the chewing ability of your horse. However, this does not mean that there is no feeling in these teeth. Wolf teeth have their own root canal with dental nerve.

Wolf teeth are often - but not always rightly - associated with riding problems. Some of them can indeed cause problems. Consider, in particular, mobile, chipped, abnormally positioned and very asymmetrical ones. 

When deciding to remove these teeth, it is important:

  • Sedate the horse AND locally anesthesiate the teeth themselves, otherwise this is an unnecessarily painful procedure with a greater risk of the tooth breaking off and/or damage to the surrounding tissues.
  • Remove the entire tooth. Remaining root fragments can infect and will tend to migrate to the surface. A fragment can thus cause more problems than the entire tooth.
  • That this procedure is performed by a veterinarian. Only veterinarians are authorized to sedate your horse, anesthetize him/her locally, and to extract molars. Dental technicians or so-called horse dentists who are not veterinarians are violating the law on the practice of veterinary medicine if they perform these procedures. 
  • Granting your horse a few days of bit rest so that optimal healing can take place

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