Most commonly if your horse has dental problems you will not see any clinical symptoms until it is severe. In more advanced cases you may see signs of weight loss, dropping feed, or odor from the mouth.
The best way to prevent these more advanced clinical symptoms is routine dentistry. Just as you visit your dentist on an annual or bi-annual basis, your horse should do the same. Horses can develop the same dental problems that you do. Gum disease, broken teeth, food packing in between two teeth that have a small gap between them… and the list goes on. To help identify these problems early or better yet, take care of the teeth before problems start, your horse should have routine care.
What does routine mean?? A good starting point is once yearly. Depending on the patient’s age, this may increase to every 6 months or back off to every year and a half. Young horses have a very dynamic mouth with new teeth coming in and baby teeth falling out, so a lot can change within the mouth in a few months. Over a period of 4 months 4 teeth should fall out and 4 adult teeth should be coming in. This sets the stage for problems if it does not occur correctly. Middle age horses on the other hand have less active change and a slower eruption rate than their younger counterparts so it is more likely that once yearly exams are perfect. Conversely, geriatric horses in their mid 20s to 30s are likely wearing out their teeth and are more predisposed to loose teeth, missing teeth, or food packing in between teeth that just aren’t perfect anymore.
So the answer is not so straight forward. Bottom line, routine dental care is the best way to prevent significant problems and to maintain a good grinding surface into the horse’s geriatric years. This may vary based on his or her age but in general, every year to year and a half is very reasonable.