At or soon after birth foals will have a total of 16 teeth present, four incisors or front teeth and 12 premolars or back teeth. At six to eight weeks four more incisors will erupt through the gum and at approximately six months the last set of deciduous incisors will erupt. At the same time if they are present wolf teeth will erupt. Wolf teeth are small long rooted teeth these teeth are vestigial, that is they serve no purpose and may interfere with bitting of the horse. It is advisable to remove these teeth and to do so while the horse is still young as these teeth will eventually fuse with the bones of the skull making extraction far more difficult.Dental problems can be congenital; that is, present at birth. Examples include Brachygnathism or parrot mouth and prognathism or sow mouth (over or underbite); these conditions can be treated but to do so they must be diagnosed very early on. For this reason foals should be examined soon after birth. 12 months is an ideal time to begin routine dental exams and treatment as the soft cheek teeth will be wearing each other leading to formation of sharp cingulae or points. This causes pain for the horse due to ulceration of the cheeks and tongue. Changes in the way the horse eats due to this pain can affect weight gains, change the wear patterns of teeth leading to dental abnormalities…
12 months is also an ideal time to check for and extract wolf teeth. At twelve months of age the first permanent cheek tooth erupts so it is a good time to check this is occurring normally and identify any problems. Dental abnormalities can reduce weight gains by 30% - this type of decrease can have long lasting effects on a horse during this critical development period.