Saturday, June 25, 2011

Wolf Teeth

The picture to the right is of the right upper dental arcade. The small little tooth at the very front is a wolf tooth. These small little teeth do not serve any known function, other than to get in the way of the bit. For this reason they are typically removed before a young horse goes into training. Occasionally we will encounter an older horse with bit related issues as a result of a wolf tooth left in place.

They can be highly variable in their eruption pattern. Most are about the size of the one in this picture, but they can also be larger or smaller. Most horses have upper wolf teeth, some only have one, and yet some horses never develop them at all. Very rarely will they appear on the lower jaw. They are almost exclusively only on the upper jaw.

Many people get wolf teeth confused with canine teeth. The wolf tooth is technically the first premolar. They sit just in front of the second premolar, which is a very large tooth, and the first major cheek tooth in the dental arcade. The canines sit quite a bit further forward in the mouth, much closer to the incisors. Canine teeth do not appear in the mouth until 4 or 5 years of age. Another difference from wolf teeth is that they are present on both the upper and lower jaws. A properly placed bit would sit behind the canines, but just in front of the wolf teeth. Most mares do not develop canines, but if they do, they are typically quite a bit smaller than what their male counterparts would have. Canine teeth are considerably large than wolf teeth. They are extremely difficult to extract. Canine teeth are only removed if they are diseased. We do not remove healthy canine teeth.

Because wolf teeth do not serve any known function and because they only serve to be a source of irritation in the bitted mouth, we typically removed them prior to a young horse going into training. The picture to the right is the same horse pictured above, except now the wolf tooth has been removed. To extract the tooth we first numb up the area, cut the gum around the tooth and then gradually work to slide it out with an elevator. The small hole left heals over quickly and uneventfully.

Here is what the tooth looks like out of the mouth. You can see that while they have a very small crown, there is a very long root present.

No comments:

Post a Comment