Horses need dental care throughout their lives, and this is mainly due to the sharp points that form on their cheek teeth. These sharp points that form on the outside of the upper cheek teeth and the inside of the lower cheek teeth can injure the horse's mouth. Removing these sharp points is referred to as floating and the points are ground off with various tools. However, there is a lot more to a dental procedure than just floating as your veterinarian should examine every tooth for disease as well as examine movement of the jaw ― and in almost all horses, this examination requires sedation.
If your horse's teeth were floated, you may have heard the term 'bit seats'. A bit seat is formed by removing a portion of the frontal surface of the first cheek tooth of both the lower and upper arcades. The reason for this is that many folks believe that when you place a bit in the horse's mouth and the rider pulls back on the bit, a portion of the cheek can be pulled backwards with the bit and onto the first cheek tooth. If this tooth is sharp, it can cause pain and cause the horse to throw the head and affect performance. Because of this, a bit seat can be made by grinding the front edge of the tooth into a 45-degree angle with the gum instead of the normal 90-degree angle. This decreases the pain on the gum as it is pulled into the tooth. Dr. Geoff Tucker, writing in the International Equine Veterinarian, says these horses have flabby cheeks because there's so much extra cheek that can be pulled into the tooth when the bit is pulled. Next time your vet examines your horse's mouth, ask them to check for extra or flabby cheeks in your horse.