Wolf teeth in Horses

Wolf tooth

 

 

In horses, the first premolar teeth, if present, are known as wolf teeth.  No one is truly sure how this term originated but several theories abound and the term can be found in textbooks from the late 1700s.

 

The wolf tooth is a vestigial tooth which is estimated to be present in up to 70% of horses and the tooth serves no useful purpose.  It is most frequently a small tooth and it has no deciduous form (baby tooth).  The wolf tooth, when present, usually erupts between 5 to 7 months of age and does not continue to erupt over a long period of time (the functional premolars and molars erupt over many years to balance the continual wear from grazing pastures).

 

Wolf teeth are common in the top jaw (maxilla) but can infrequently occur in the bottom jaw (mandible) as well.

 

 

 

Upper wolf teeth (arrowed)

Lower wolf tooth (arrowed)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wolf teeth may or may not be causing problems for the horse.  They perform no function but may become painful if the bit contacts them. They also get in the way of being able to adequately contour the 2nd premolars (= bit seating the first cheek teeth) and certainly get dental disease associated with them.  For this reason they are usually extracted in the ridden horse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upper wolf tooth in a skull with food impaction causing periodontal disease

 

Extraction is done with the horse sedated and local anaesthesia infiltrated around the tooth (or occasionally a regional nerve block is given).  The tooth is then removed painlessly.

 

Local anaesthetic injection for wolf tooth extraction

 

 

Some wolf teeth can be quite large whilst others are very small.  Unfortunately, the size of the exposed tooth crown gives no idea as to the size of the root of the tooth.

 

Upper wolf tooth

Tooth extracted from previous horse

Small wolf tooth

Tooth extracted from previous horse

 

Occasionally unerupted wolf teeth (blind wolf teeth) are present and are associated with a painful region in the gap between the cheek teeth and the incisors.  These are removed surgically.

 

Blind wolf tooth (arrowed)

Tooth removed from previous horse 

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Some Photographs copyright and courtesy of Dean Saffron.

 

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