What is Supernumerary Teeth?
Also known as polyodontia or hyperdentition, supernumerary teeth occur when a horse develops one or more than the usual number of teeth. Though the exact incidence of the condition is not known, it is not common in horses and when seen the additional teeth are typically located in the permanent incisors or cheek teeth. Supernumerary teeth may form in the typical direction or can form abnormally and may be present on one or both sides and in one or both of the horse’s jaws. The extra teeth can cause the normal incisors to be displaced and lead to the development of gaps between teeth, periodontal disease, and other complications.
Supernumerary teeth occur when a horse develops more than the usual number of teeth; the additional teeth may cause no issues or can lead to problems like periodontal disease and sinusitis.
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Symptoms of Supernumerary Teeth in Horses
Should your horse have supernumerary teeth, you or your veterinarian may notice that he has teeth growing beside or behind his regular teeth and his mouth may seem overcrowded. In some cases, the extra teeth will not be noticed, though they can lead to future issues to include:
- Trouble eating (soft tissue trauma can occur to the cheeks and tongue making chewing difficult if not impossible)
- Unusual facial development
- Significant periodontal disease that can lead to maxillary sinusitis
- Extra nasal discharge
- Facial swelling
Because the extra teeth can cause these problems, it is recommended that all foals and young horses have their teeth checked as they grow in to be sure that any supernumerary teeth that exist will not lead to problems down the road.
Supernumerary teeth can be categorized into two groups: first, there are extra teeth that look like normal teeth though may be of a different size. In some horses it may not be clear which is the extra tooth. Second, the teeth may be malformed or undeveloped and smaller in size than a typical tooth.
Though supernumerary teeth are not common, when they are present in a horse they usually are seen in the permanent incisors or cheek teeth. Supernumerary wolf and canine teeth can occur but are much less likely.
Causes of Supernumerary Teeth in Horses
Researchers believe that supernumerary teeth start when the fetal tissue that will become a tooth splits, leading to an excess tooth being formed in the mouth of the foal.
Diagnosis of Supernumerary Teeth in Horses
Sometimes, the extra teeth will not be noticed. Because the teeth can ultimately cause problems for the horse, foals and young horses should have their teeth checked as they grow to determine if there are any supernumerary teeth present and if the additional teeth may cause issues in the future.
Your veterinarian will conduct a full examination of your horse and likely conduct radiographs to get a better idea of the location and potential impact of the extra teeth.
Treatment of Supernumerary Teeth in Horses
When it comes to supernumerary teeth in horses, treatment will be decided for each individual case and will depend upon the location of the extra teeth and the potential for them to cause problems. A veterinarian who has experience in horse dentistry will be able to decide if the teeth should be removed or if regular, ongoing dental care may be sufficient. There is no need to remove the extra teeth if they are not causing the horse to have issues with his health.
When the horse is experiencing periodontal disease, diastema or sinusitis, extraction of one or more extra teeth is typically necessary. Some horses may have to have their teeth filed down, as they may cause harm to their gums and cheeks and if the teeth are loose they may then have to be removed. If extra spaces develop, they may have to be filled. Treatment may also focus on limiting overgrowth.
Recovery of Supernumerary Teeth in Horses
Should your horse have supernumerary teeth, you will want to follow the recommendations of your veterinarian when it comes to treatment and follow-up appointments. In young horses, it is important to monitor the development of their mouth and teeth; this way, should supernumerary teeth appear to be such that problems will arise for the horse, they can be dealt with preemptively.