Understanding Your Equine Dental Chart

Understanding the medical terminology on your equine dental chart will clarify any questions you may have.








Hooks a
Hooks b





Ramps a

Ramps b




Step mouth a

Step mouth b



Wave Mouth a

Wave Mouth b



Dorsal Curvature a

Dorsal Curvature b



Ventral Curvature a

Ventral Curvature b



Brachygnathism a

Brachygnathism b



Prognathism a

Prognathism b

Sharp Points a

Sharp Points b



Excessive Transverse Ridges (ETR)

#1 on your horse’s dental chart is ETR. Horses should have transverse ridges running across the surface of the teeth. It is important for the mastication process of grinding and chewing food. However, Excessive Transverse Ridges are much more pronounced than typical transverse ridging. ETR can restrict the horse’s TMJ and interferes with lateral mandible movement. Typically this exaggerated ridging will need to be reduced on two or three separate visits.

Accentuated Transverse Ridges (ATR)

#2 on the dental chart is ATR. This is a similar problem as ETR except it is more severe ridging. This is from improper wear of the teeth. It is typical in horses that are stalled a lot and fed processed feeds.


#3 listed on your dental chart is hooks. Hooks develop due to the misalignment of the molar arcades. This is often related to problems with the incisors. If there are any misalignments in the horse’s mouth the teeth will not wear properly. The part of the tooth which is not in any contact will erupt and get more and more pronounced. This is why hooks will get bigger over time. Hooks will restrict the anterior/posterior and lateral movement of the mandible, and large hooks will cause extreme discomfort often leading to quidding, weight loss, colic, and sores.


#4 listed on your dental chart is ramps. These are similar to hooks but have a more gradual slope to the tooth and can also be on the front or back, upper or lower molars. Ramps on the first lower cheek teeth can cause pinching of the soft tissue on the lower bars and can affect the way the horse holds the bit in his mouth. Ramps will also inhibit the natural anterior and posterior movement of the mandible which is very important to any performance horse being ridden.

Step Mouth

#5 listed is step mouth. A step occurs when one cheek tooth is longer than the rest of the arcade. This occurs when a horse is either missing a cheek tooth or the opposed tooth is severely damaged. It can also occur because of different rates of eruptions from opposing molars. This causes the opposed tooth to “super erupt” and become much longer than the rest. This will restrict anterior and posterior mandible movement and lateral excursion. The step will gradually have to be reduced on a six month basis.


Wave Mouth

#6 listed is wave mouth. This condition occurs in only about 2-19% cases. It is common in horses over the age of 12 who previously had not had regular dental work. The term wave mouth is used to describe the uneven wear of the molar arcades. The molar arcade is higher and gradually gets lower and then higher similar to how one would envision a wave. Wave mouths are very difficult to correct especially with older horses and will require several visits from the dentist to attempt to correct.


Dorsal Curvature

#7 listed is a dorsal curvature. This is when the incisors curve downwards making it look like the teeth are frowning.  It causes the cheek teeth table angles to be steep. It is best corrected by realigning the incisor arcades with power tools. Minor cases can be done with hand floats.



Ventral Curvature

#8 listed is ventral curvature. This is when the incisors are arched upwards at both sides, making it look like a smile. This typically means the lower corner incisors are too lengthy, and also the upper incisors. It restricts the lateral excursion, and causes malocclusion of the cheek teeth. This condition often affects the cheek teeth also making them at too steep of an angle. Often the best solution to this problem is power floating, however, with a slight smile it can be corrected with an incisor float.


#9 also known as  parrot mouth. This is a common problem and is a congenital defect. It is where the upper incisors stick out too far forward relative to the lower incisors. To solve this problem it is best to do an “incisor reduction” and corrective floating. This will restore anterior-posterior movement of the jaw, and reduce pressure on the horse’s TMJ.


#10 on the dental chart is Prognathism. This is a fairly rare abnormality, and is where the lower incisors protrude too far forward in relation to the upper incisors. Again the most common procedure to correct this abnormality is an “incisor reduction” and corrective floating, which has the same effect on the tempro-mandibular joint as the above overbite.

Sharp points

#11 on your dental chart is sharp points. Sharp edges and points will naturally develop as your horses teeth erupt. Severity of sharp points vary due to horse routine. Eruption rates differ by age but typical growth of an average mature horse is 2-4mm a year. These sharp enamel points will cause lacerations, ulcers, and discomfort in the horse’s mouth. Horses with sharp points will find the deglutition process (chewing and swallowing) difficult and may have developed quidding (spitting up half chewed balls of hay) or grain dropping.

Missing Teeth

#12 on your horse’s dental chart is “missing”. This is a missing tooth whether it be an incisor or a molar. Typically if a horse is missing a tooth, the opposing tooth will continue to grow into the empty void. This will cause the teeth to lock. Horses with missing teeth will always need regular dental attention on the opposing overlong tooth. Missing teeth could be caused by trauma, age, or removal.


#13 on your dental chart is the word fractured. Fractured teeth are cracked teeth and can be the cause of many problems in the horse’s mouth. Chewing discomfort and or foul smelling breath are common signs there is a fractured tooth. Typical treatment of a fractured tooth is extraction of the dental fragment, removal of sharp edges of the fractured tooth, extraction of the entire tooth, and reduction in height of the opposite cheek tooth.

Flat Table Angle

#14 on your dental chart is flat table angle. Young horses will typically have a natural molar table angle of 10 or 15 degrees. This should be maintained through proper dental care. This is necessary for grinding and occlusal surface of the teeth. Flat table angles occur from over floating or incisor imbalance.

Special Note: Wolf Teeth are technically the first premolar which are normally found in males. They will usually erupt between 5-12 months of age but do not continue to erupt throughout their lifetime like other molars. It is industry standard to remove wolf teeth at the age of 3 or 4. Wolf teeth interfere with the bit and another concern is the wolf teeth breaking or fracturing so it is best to remove them before introducing the bit to a young horse. All extractions and sedation are to be done under the direct or indirect supervision of a licensed DVM.

Wolf Teeth a

Wolf Teeth b


“The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord” Proverbs 21:31