The importance of equine dental care has long been neglected. In the horse world, in general, it is important to emphasize the importance of good horse mouth, teeth hygiene and maintenance. So, what does an equine dentist do, and which horses could benefit from their practices? An experienced horse dentist would basically equilibrate a horse's teeth in various ways. Horses in the natural state do not usually require dentistry, the same as they do not require a furrier. Free-roaming horses eat a lot of hard plants with a high woody content, as well as grasses with silicates. These are abrasive substances, which wear down the incisors as the horse tears at the grass stalks. Hay-fed horses do not need to use their incisors in the same way, with the result that these do not get worn down and eventually get so long that the horse cannot close its mouth sufficiently to use the molars to grind its food. All horses could benefit from the services of an equine dentist, although only a small proportion receives them. Even if your vet checks your horse teeth every half year, the chances are very high that there are points on the outside of the upper premolars and molars which are causing either constant discomfort or digging ulcerations in the cheeks. A thorough oral examination requires the use of a full-mouth speculum and a mild sedative or relaxant. The most discerning owners tend to call in a specialized dentist as standard procedure, because it can improve a horse's performance dramatically and prolong active life for up to a decade. Better food uptake means better performance so in order to improve the horse's digestion regular dental work is a must. Surprisingly, a significant proportion of horses suffer from tooth maladies which can affect the way they take the bit. A tendency to resist turning in a particular direction is, for example, a strong indication that the horse has some kind of problem on that side of its mouth. The horse will surely act up especially if turning is uncomfortable. It may be simply a question of getting the bit to sit more comfortably to cause an immediate change in the behavior of the horse. Many horses have persistent problems which cause uneven eating, distortions of facial muscle development and a build-up of pressure, which in turn can lead to constant headaches. Usually during the first session of dental treatment even under mild sedation, the effects can be dramatic and the horse experiences relief from this. Have you ever seen a horse smile? Friction can arise between dental practitioners and standard vets, who have very different approaches to dental problems. Typically, a vet is called in to file down teeth when they become long, but tends to do so in a very uniform manner, which does not take into account the natural variations in the horse's own way of grinding, or the angles of the teeth necessary for comfortable eating. Incorrect filing can radically change the angle of impact and effectively prevent the horse from eating. There is unfortunately no accredited certification program for equine dentistry through veterinary organizations. Ironically, only veterinary practitioners are legally empowered to practice equine dentistry, although many are not capable of the most basic form of it. Veterinarians usually work hand in hand with a specialized and trained lay-dentist or dentist assistant. The equine dentists themselves are a rare breed. Because of the problems they are up against in terms of training programs and chances to practice freely, they tend to be fierce animal lovers with a high commitment to their chosen profession and an almost evangelical passion to spread the word. There is a worldwide network of practitioners, who are in constant consultation for problem-solving and sharing new techniques and findings. A visit from and equine dentist can be as rewarding an experience for the owner as it is for the horse.