Floating Horse’s Teeth – All You Need to Know!

Many people believe that teeth erupt throughout a horse’s life. Well, this is not right. Teeth do have a life span, which is shorter than the horse’s life. And during his life, you will surely need to care for his teeth, commonly by floating them.

This article is going to provide comprehensive knowledge about floating horse’s teeth – a very common dental treatment that every horse needs.


What Do Floating Horse’s Teeth Mean?

Floating horse’s teeth refers to the process of filling sharp edges/hooks on the surface to help horses be efficient in chewing. The small file used to smooth out is called a float, which gives the process the name “floating”.

Floats can have different shapes such as small rectangles, ovals, or even cylindrical shapes. These are caused by the way horses grind their feed – the circular motion. If horses suffer this issue, they will find it hard to eat or hold substances in their mouth.


Before and after floating horse’s teeth

History of Floating Horse’s Teeth

Have you ever wondered “is this true to all – both wild and domestic horses? whether there is any individual in the exception”? I would say “yes” for the former, and “almost no” for the latter.

Wild horses chew more roughage than domestic horses. When grazing, wild horses may ingest a bit of soil, and the grass in the forest is full of silica. This will wear down their teeth surface.

The diet of domestic horses is much softer, such as alfalfa, or grain. So, domestic horses’ teeth will be worn down more slowly comparing to their wild friend.

The horse himself totally can’t take care of his teeth like a human. So, dental problems in horses are an “of course”. When horses chew, the teeth’ surface will be worn away slowly. New teeth material will grow up slowly after then. If the new surface is uneven, the teeth can form sharp points.

And that’s why we do need to float horse’s teeth.

Benefits Of Floating Horse’s Teeth

Your horse can chew his food well when sharp points in teeth are removed. This helps for the best digestion.

When chewing, your horse moves his lower jaw to the side. This will stretch his cheeks, so the cheeks will be pulled more tightly against the teeth’ edges. Sadly, cheeks will be cut by sharp points and make him uncomfortable to eat which leads him to drop hay or feed.

Additionally, the injuries in their cheeks can easily be infected, causing him more health issues.

Does Floating A Horse’s Teeth Hurt?

The answer is a perfect “no”. The nerve lies down low in the tooth, so removing sharp points and filling sharp hooks will not cause any pain to your horse. However, he may feel a bit of discomfort when his mouth is held by a speculum.

After examining, if your horse tries to chew aggressively while still in the procedure, he can suffer strain and stress on his cheek and jaw muscles. This is a result appearing several days after.

When to Start Floating Horse’s Teeth?


Most horses have regular floats around 2 years old. But there is still a minor of one-year-old horses that have sharp points enough to hurt their cheeks and tongue.


If you do not have any pre-knowledge about when your dear horse needs floating, below are some signs for you to notice.

  • Dropping food or regular reluctance to eat
  • Have difficulty in chewing
  • Hard to shift food to one side of his mouth
  • Have excessive mouth foaming
  • Weight loss
  • Puffy cheeks on his face
  • Smelly breath
  • Undigested food in his stool

How Often do We Float Horse’s Teeth?

Generally, horses under 5 years old should have their teeth floated every 6 months. As in this stage, their teeth are growing more quickly.

Horses aged from 5 to 20 should be floated at least once, while horses aged over 20 should be floated at least twice a year.

If your horse is diagnosed with dental issues, his teeth should be checked more often.

When your horse gets older, he should be checked for losing teeth and other dental problems involving aging. Teeth cannot erupt or be replaced for what is worn away, so floating should be done conservatively for aging horses.

Unlike humans, horses’ teeth keep growing until they are 30 years old – what a surprise! So, remember to float their teeth, do not cut them.

However, it is important to remember not to over-float your horse’s teeth. His teeth can be worn out more quickly, broken, or lost if putting too much filing on him.

If the floating is not done correctly, not only the teeth but also the gums and other mouth tissues can also be injured. Hence, it is worth finding a reputable equine dentist to take care thoroughly the procedure.

How to Float A Horse’s Teeth? Tools to Use

There are two floating methods: the power float and the hand float.


Power float & Hand float

1. The power float

This method uses power tools. With power equipment, a vet or a dentist can do more precise work in less time and physical effort. As this way is faster, it is suitable for horses that are difficult to float.

However, some people do not like this method because of several minus points such as:

  • Horses must be sedated. If not, they can provide feedback and mistakes can go detected.
  • Friction from high-speed grinding can lead to damage that is irreversible.
  • Facing the risk of over floating or filing the horse’s teeth down too far.
  • The power tools can arch and shock the horse.
  • The weight and power of the tools can lessen the sensitivity of the float.

2. The hand float


By this method, sharp points are removed manually.

The equine dentist will manually force the tool back and forth in your horse’s mouth to file down hard enamel. This can take a long session for all. And, the success of this method relies solely on the strength of the equine dentist. Not often but under floating can occur.

Additionally, when using manual tools, the equine dentist is often working without a speculum or special lighting. Hence, I fear that he might not remove enough points on your horse teeth.

Well, and if your horse is uncooperative, it is hard to use this method.

However, using this way of floating does have certain benefits over the previous way, such as:

  • Sedation is not needed in most cases.
  • Friction done manually will not damage the horse’s teeth.
  • The horse will not be arched or shocked.
  • Because of less weight and no motor power of the tools, the level of control and sensitivity of float will be high.
  • Do not have the risk of over-floating.

So, it is your job to choose which one to use after considering the benefits and risks of each method. Be sure to work with your professional as well.

How Much do Floating Horse’s Teeth Cost?

On average, it costs about $80 to $220 for a horse to be floated. The price can vary depending on each location, and whether you choose a veterinarian or a dental specialist.

What is more, the price can increase if your horse needs special service. For example, if your horse needs sedation, the expense can run from $10 to $30. If extractions are needed, it often costs from $20 to $80 per tooth.

For horses whose teeth have never be floated before, first-time float fees may be charged. If professionals live far, they will also charge travel fees.

How to Care For Horse’s Teeth?

There is something about caring for your horse’s teeth to help to keep it in the best condition.

As such, you should always notice your horse’s eating behavior. If he is dropping feed, eating slowly, drinking while in feed time, etc., please check for dental problems.

You also need to pay attention to your horse’s general behavior. Sometimes, unusual behavior can also link to dental issues.

Remember to remove all feed trapped in between your horse’s incisors. You can use a small stiff brush to do this. Or, you can use a large syringe with clean water to flush his mouth. This is really necessary and helpful, especially in old horses.

Lastly, it is better to feed your horse from the ground. You can be surprised to know this, but horses were designed to eat this way. Eating from the ground also helps them in aligning their jaws when chewing.


I remember someone had told me “horses live by their ability to chew”. So, don’t let your dear horse be at risk of health problems causing by the bad condition of his teeth and mouth. Keep that mouth healthy by checking regularly and floating your horse’s teeth as soon as possible!

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