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Wolf Teeth and Bit Seats in Horses

By: Dr. Phillip Johnson

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What are Wolf Teeth?

Wolf teeth are small, rudimentary teeth in front of the first largte cheek teeth in horses, and if present are counted as the first premolar. They are usually only present in the upper jaw, in the upper (maxillary) arcade. Less commonly, mandibular wolf teeth are also identified. The majority of horses develop wolf teeth.

The wolf tooth is very small and is sometimes present even if it has not erupted through the gum. The location of wolf teeth is such that they are widely suspected to interfere with comfortable bit placement. Problems attributed to wolf teeth include difficulty with the bit, bit chomping, and resentment of work. For these reasons, many horse owners simply elect to have any wolf teeth removed as soon as they are recognized. Removal of wolf teeth entails the use of a special circular instrument and rarely requires even tranquilization. It is important to ensure that the horse's tetanus vaccination status is current.

What is a Bit Seat?

A bit seat is produced by rasping away the front corners of front upper and lower cheek teeth. In rasping these teeth in this manner, a groove is produced when the upper and lower teeth come together. Some people believe that this is useful for seating the bit. It is believed that bit seats will act to reduce the irritating movements of the bit against the gums during work.

Another reason for bit seats is to prevent enamel points from developing on the corners of these premolars. Once a point sets in, it overhangs the molar, and thus can worsen or induce uneven wear of the molars behind it, since they don't come together perfectly.

Whether bits seats accomplish what is intended has not been substantiated with research. Their effect on performance is anecdotal. However, there is no question that they prevent enamel points from coming back soon in this region of the mouth.

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