Finer Points of Floating
The most common procedure in field dentistry will be floating the teeth to remove the
sharp enamel points on the buccal aspect of the maxillary teeth and on the lingual aspect of
the mandibular teeth.
Performance Dentistry is often thought of as performing additional
procedures as in carefully and minimally rounding the rostral and buccal borders of the 06’s to
create a bit seat which is more comfortable to the lips and oral mucosa pushed to this area by a
bit. Removal of wolf teeth also falls into this category. For many horses the real need for these
procedures may be argued. Overzealous creation of bit seats may expose pulp horns and lead
to devitalized teeth.
To perform these procedures in a manner safe for both patient and operator, the horse must
be adequately sedated and restrained. In the field, a box stall is adequate. Place the horse with
his hindquarters in a corner and support the head with a head stand. I don’t like to use a head
suspension ring unless a stocks is available. Although there is still need for skill with manual
hand floats the following description will be for the PowerFloat for routine floating.
After rinsing and examining the mouth (examination procedure covered elsewhere) and full
mouth speculum in place, the floating procedure begins with allowing the horse to hear the
motorized float. Hold the handle grip of the float in the right hand, the float shaft in the left
hand and insert the working end into the mouth. Slowly accelerate the motor without touching
any teeth. Commonly, this will be without incident.
Start grinding with the rotary diamond burr
on the buccal aspect in the middle of the left upper (200) arcade using moderate pressure with
the float at about 50% speed. If well tolerated, increase to 75% speed and proceed caudally
with the head of the float at a 45 degree angle to the occlusal surface of the tooth. Use a
rocking motion along the long axis of the float to create a rounded edge as the sharp enamel
points are removed. You will actually be pushing the buccal tissue away from the teeth with the
back side of the float as you go. Pay close attention to the points on the caudal 211 which can
be missed. Moving rostrally along the arcade, the position of the shaft will be moved medially
to accommodate the curvature of the arcade. Also it is generally necessary to switch hands
and come across the oral cavity from the opposite side to adequately reduce the points on the
rostral 206 and begin the bit seat if desired. An assistant may retract the cheek with a finger or
small retractor at the commissure of the lips when floating the 206.
The 100 arcade is treated in a similar fashion, but with the handle grip in the left hand and
the shaft being guided by the right hand.
Rotate the shaft of the PowerFloat 180 degrees to begin on the 400 arcade. The left hand
is on the pistol grip and the shaft is guided by the right hand. Start in the middle of the arcade
and work caudally and then rostrally with the disc at a 45 degree angle and rotating it to make
a rounded edge as you remove the enamel points from the lingual surface. The back of your
hand barricades the tongue from the float.
During the procedure, rinse the mouth frequently for the comfort of the horse and ease
of movement of the float. Remember to keep the disc moving and never stay on one site for
more than 15 seconds so that thermal damage is avoided. Constant water infusion and suction
connections would be an advantage. Also keep the disc clean with a stiff bristle brush kept in
your rinse bucket to maximize cutting performance and reduce heat build-up. Do not immerse
the disc in the water.
Having completed all 4 arcades, visually and manually examine each tooth for proper result.
If incisor reduction is required, this is done by removing the full mouth speculum and using a
cylindrical speculum inserted into the inter-dental space. Operator preference determines the
best way to reduce the incisors, but my preference is to hold the grip in my right hand, use the
fingers of my left hand to support the disc, while guiding the disc with my thumb on the labial