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Find Answers to your

Frequently Asked Questions

Below is a list of answers to some of the questions most commonly asked by our customers and fellow equine veterinarians.

If you cannot find the answers you’re looking for on this page, please contact Midwest Veterinary Dental Services and we’ll get the answers to need.

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If I live too far away, can I trailer my horse to you?

Yes, we have a clinic facility in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, near Interstate 43. We have a large driveway to turn around and ample room to park your trailer. There are no “haul-in or clinic fees,” unless your horse has to spend the night. We perform routine dentistry as well as advanced dentistry and oral surgery at our facility.

What do we require at a farm appointment?

  • Access to power and water
  • A safe spot for your horse to spend time waking up after the appointment where food can be withheld
  • An area to park our truck and trailer close to the barn

Where does the term floating come from?

Floating is a layman’s term that was derived long ago from the masonry profession for smoothing a surface. This was then transposed to horses’ teeth to describe the procedure of removing the sharp enamel points that are developed during chewing. In European countries, the term rasping is utilized. The profession of equine dental veterinarians is now using the term occlusal adjustment and odontoplasty to describe the process of removing sharp enamel points and correcting malocclusions in your horse’s mouth. For the sake of simplicity, we will use the term “floating” for the following questions and on our website.

Why do my horse’s teeth need to be floated?

Horses have teeth that continue to erupt into the mouth throughout their lives. As horses chew their food, they gradually grind away the chewing surface of their teeth. This process results in the formation of sharp enamel points, which need to be floated or reduced as part of routine dental maintenance. Some horses may have other dental imbalances that are addressed during the dental float to optimize their chewing function and oral health.

How often should my horse be floated?

Your horse should be examined and have a routine dental float at least once a year. Depending on your horse’s age, breed, history, and performance use, we may recommend that they be examined every 6 months. We will establish a care schedule and discuss this with you after we have developed a treatment plan for your horse.

Why do wild horses seem to do fine without floating?

Natural selection plays a role in wild horse populations. Wild horses with excellent teeth will generally live longer and produce more offspring. Wild horses still form sharp points like our domesticated horses, however their diet and grazing habits allow them to wear their teeth differently than our domesticated horses.

Will you float my horse without sedation?

We sedate all of our patients because without sedation, we cannot perform a complete oral exam with a dental speculum and mirror. We can perform a brief unsedated oral exam, but this will not give us the full picture of your horse’s oral health. All horses require some sedation to ensure their safety and comfort during the floating procedure. We tailor our sedation protocols to each horse based on their unique temperament and health status.

Do you hand float?

With the development of safer and more precise instrumentation, we feel that we can do a more thorough and efficient job with power dental instruments. Our power dental instruments have water irrigation and suction, which prevents any thermal damage and allows superior visibility and precision. The dental instrumentation that we utilize is designed to smooth the surface of the tooth without causing trauma to the soft tissues of the mouth. For these reasons, we have moved from hand floating to power instrumentation for a safer and more efficient procedure for your horse.

What is a “bit seat”?

The “bit seat” was a layman’s term that was used to describe a procedure that provided “so called” soft tissue comfort in the mouth when a bit was in use. This has spurred much discussion in the performance horse population and has led to many horses having teeth damaged by removal of too much of the tooth surface. We promote the development of a treatment plan for your horse’s oral care that provides soft tissue comfort not only for the area that is in contact with the bit, but for the entire mouth. Studies have demonstrated that the “bit seat” alone did not improve a horse’s performance. Our approach is to first examine the horse’s mouth and provide only what is needed for your horse.