Horses' teeth erupt throughout their lifetimes. During normal use they constantly grind tiny amounts off the chewing surfaces, frequently resulting in sharp enamel points that can range from not being much of a problem to causing deep lesions in the horse's cheek and/or tongue. Individual differences in conformation (e.g. over- or underbite), genetic make-up, feeding practices, age, and concurrent disease can all cause various changes in a horse's mouth. We frequently see and address issues like irregular tooth wear and periodontal disease, lose teeth, and EOTRH.
Every horse will be lightly sedated for its dental exam, in order to make the procedure less stressful for the horse and less dangerous for the veterinarian and helper. We use a dental speculum to hold their mouths open, and a powerful light attached to the speculum to fully illuminate the oral cavity for a full exam. We keep a detailed record of every exam so that we can refer back to it on future occasions. If necessary, sharp points and abnormalities in the molar tables will be reduced ("floated"), and we make a plan to address more severe problems such as extractions. While not every horse will need actual work done every time, we still highly recommend a yearly exam to ensure that problem are noticed early. Waiting for a horse to lose weight before scheduling a dental exam is like waiting for a person to be 90% blind before getting an eye exam! Horses are "hard wired" to eat, and many display an incredible amount of tolerance to oral pain and disease before they quit. By that point things have often progressed to a point where a resolution is impossible.