Selecting an Equine Dentist

Credit: Thinkstock There’s more to equine dentistry than just floating teeth, although that is an important part of a horse’s annual health care program.

A comprehensive preventive health care program for horses includes regular dentistry. With the number of available equine dentists, it may be a confusing task to determine who to hire for this work. It should be noted that graduate veterinarians receive their degree in medicine, surgery and dentistry, so it stands to reason that a veterinarian is one of the best resources to address your horse’s dentistry needs. That said, some states allow lay persons to perform dentistry practices on horses. Usually, the law is written with the intention that a lay dentist works alongside a licensed veterinarian.

To select a dentist–veterinarian or non-veterinarian–besides evaluating the person’s credentials and educational background in this field, there are several important facts to consider.

In many cases, a horse needs sedation to enable a thorough job by the dentist. Sedation is best performed by a licensed veterinarian for multiple reasons. Foremost is that a veterinarian with at least eight years of higher education is the most capable person to understand the use of these powerful pharmacological drugs. And, in the event of an adverse reaction, a veterinarian is able to take steps to avoid a calamity.

In addition, most equine insurance companies will not pay out on medical or mortality clauses if a horse is medicated by anyone other than a licensed veterinarian. So, when using a lay dentist who works without supervision of a licensed veterinarian, you are taking a gamble that everything will go as planned with no chance of mishap.

Some dentistry cases require radiographs (X-ray films) to identify the nature of the problem, which is in the purview of a veterinarian.Some horses require pain management following procedures, or it might be necessary to have surgical procedures performed to address a problem.

Again, the safest person to select appropriate pain-relieving medications or to perform surgery is a licensed veterinarian.

Make sure that if you are using a lay dentist for the dental work that your lay dentist has a working relationship with a qualified veterinarian who can step in to perform these necessary procedures.

Two resources that can help in locating a qualified dentist or dental technician include:

  • American Veterinary Dental Society (
  • International Association of Equine Dentistry (






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