Wolf teeth can cause an issue for some horses, so should they always be removed? Many young horses are found to have wolf teeth when they first have a bit put in their mouth, but actually most will have erupted by the time the horse is six to 12 months of age, explains equine dental technician Gemma Lilly. Wolf teeth may even shed along with the first cheek tooth cap at around two-and-a-half years of age.

What are wolf teeth?

Wolf teeth are small and sit immediately in front of the first upper cheek teeth. Sometimes, but rarely, they sit in front of the first lower cheek teeth. Wolf teeth come in many shapes and sizes and are erupt (come through the gums) by the time the horse is between 12 and 18 months years old. A bit like wisdom teeth in humans, though, not all horses will have wolf teeth.

Why are wolf teeth a problem?

Wolf teeth can cause bitting and bridling difficulties in some instances. Some horses demonstrate a clear, repeatable pain response during bitted work, while others are not affected. So whether or not wolf teeth cause a problem is down to individual experience. One theory is that sometimes the mouthpiece directly connects with the tooth during rein contact, which causes the horse pain. While this is proven to be likely in some disciplines, such as racing, it isn’t typical for most, where a full elongated head and neck position isn’t achieved.

Should they be extracted?

Wolf teeth are often routinely extracted, with some service providers believing that no wolf teeth ever did any good and may cause trouble in the future. Others elect to take action if a problem with these teeth develops. Opinions are likely to remain divided as to whether or not to remove wolf teeth as a matter of course, so you would be best advised to take the recommendations you are given for your own horse from your qualified dental technician or vet.

Most wolf teeth extraction sites heal without complication or further visitation required. After tooth removal, your horse will need time off from bitted work until the sockets fully heal and he’s comfortable in his mouth again. This can take two weeks or more.

About the expert: Gemma Lilly is an equine dental technician. She is a regular contributor to research and publications on equine dentistry for a range of audiences. Gemma has become known for welfare-orientated equine dentistry.

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