Toothbrushing–Good Horsekeeping or Barnyard Myth?

TSB Managing Director Martha Cook brushes Buster's teeth (she claims he "likes" it).

The TSB Managing Director has been spending her time in interesting ways of late.

She’s been brushing her Morgan gelding’s teeth. “The vet recommended at least once a day,” she says, “but I’m feeling pretty good if I manage it a couple times a week.”

Brushing his teeth? Now where in my old Pony Club Manual did it explain this process? Where in The Whole Horse Catalog did it depict the correct equipment for such a venture?

Are equine tooth brushes different? Are they bigger? Are they GIANT?

What kind of toothpaste do you use? Peppermint? All natural?

I’ve brushed my dog’s teeth….and that seems strange, a bit forced, and not at all significant as a means of preventive practice (his breath still borders on stinky and we’re “boning up” for another $400 trip to the vet for tartar removal in a few months). And, when I ask other dog owners how often they brush their dogs’ teeth, more often than not they claim they never have and don’t see any reason to start…which always leaves me feeling like I’ve been “had” by our veterinarian and her staff…

Buster appears unconvinced that the benefits of oral hygiene are indeed worthwhile.

So what good is it when it comes to dental hygiene in the horse (other than providing large animal vets an occasional giggle?)

According to Martha, her gelding tends to build up far more tartar than most horses do. Her vet has noted its unusually significant occurrence, pondered it, and although the reason for this phenomenon is still a mystery, with his many years of Morgan-old-age still before him, it seems worth it to give a little daily tooth scrub a try.

But his teeth really do look GREAT!

“Tartar is the thick, hard, yellow-gray substance that most commonly forms at the base of the canine teeth in geldings and stallions and sometimes at the base of the incisor teeth,” reports TheHorse.com (Your Guide to Equine Health Care). “If left to build up, the tartar will eventually irritate the gum surrounding the tooth and might cause bleeding and discomfort. Tartar removal is part of any regular comprehensive dental examination, which is recommended for all horses. Your veterinarian can show you how to remove any tartar between visits.”

Martha says she is using a regular old human toothbrush and some baking soda–and that her Morgan kind of likes it! We’ll check back in a few months from now with a progress report and let you know if he still does…and if the whole rigamarole seems to be having any (positive?) effect!

Are you brushing YOUR horse’s teeth? If you are, tell us what you’re using, how long you’ve been doing it, and whether it seems to keep your equine’s pearly whites, well, pearly white! We–and a whole bunch of other horse owners with extra time on their hands–want to know!

And, if you’re looking for a fabulous guide (with some of the most impressively graphic equine oral cavity photos I’ve ever seen!) to the horse’s mouth and dental care, check out CARING FOR THE HORSE’S TEETH AND MOUTH, available at the TSB bookstore where shipping in the US is always FREE.