Finding and Scheduling an Equine Dentist

Your selected equine dentist is a core member of your equine's healthcare team.
Your selected equine dentist is a core member of your equine's healthcare team.

As the owner of a horse or many horses, one of your obligations is to make sure the horse's teeth receive the necessary care to keep them in good working condition and prevent both tooth loss.

Bad or mis-shapen teeth can damage the horse's health when it lacks the ability to chew feed properly. A painful mouth or teeth may cause the horse to become less than rider friendly because of problems related to use of a bridle and bit.

As horses age, veterinarians often recommend feeding hay cubes or pellets that can be softened in water.

With a young horse, you will want to check the teeth and mouth every few months. For an adult horse, it is best to have the teeth checked at least once a year with appointments scheduled more often if the horse needs more frequent floatings or care.

With geriatric horses, special attention needs to be given the mouth and teeth to make sure the horse gets the maximum nutrition from its feed.

Finding an equine dentist

If you live in an area with a large population of horses and horse owners, chances are you will find a number of practicing equine dentists in your area. Many veterinarians take the additional course work and internship to qualify as an equine dentist along with their regular veterinarian duties.

If you have a good veterinarian who also practices equine dentistry, you are in luck. Equine dentistry is time consuming and also hard work. Some busy veterinarians have difficulty scheduling firm dental appointments because of emergency calls related to colic and other medical emergencies horse owners face.

If your horse is receiving appropriate dental care on an on-going basis, a change in appointment dates or times should not wreak havoc with your horse's mouth.

Often the best sources for finding out about equine dentists in an area is your veterinarian, horse trainer, neighbors with horses or other horse owners.

If people you know, cannot give you suggestions, you can get a list of certified equine dentists in your area from either the American Veterinary Dental Society or the International Association of Equine Dentists.

Some equine dentists are not veterinarians. In some states it is illegal for non-veterinarians to practice equine dentistry, so you should check out the laws of your state. If you choose a regular equine dentist who is not a veterinarian, check out the dentist's credentials.

A number of equine dental schools exist some in conjunction with universities that have veterinarian programs and others that have solid courses of study with hands-on internships. Dentists who have gone through these programs are usually well-qualified for the work they do.

Another possibility is to hire an equine dental technician. Technicians have taken course work and fulfilled internships that qualify them to do many dental procedures including floating the horse's teeth. Often dental technicians work with a veterinarian.

Because they do not have a medical background, dental technicians are not allowed to sedate a horse or use motorized floating tools unless under the supervision of a veterinarian.

Hiring the equine dentist

In any case, check the dentist's or dental technician's references and ask about schooling, experience, specialties and rates. By asking courteous questions, you can get the information you need to make a reasoned decision about whether or not a particular person will work well for you.

Once you have selected your equine dentist, schedule your appointment for the first check-up and any necessary dental work. Once the dentist examines your horse, discussion can take place about how often your horse needs check-ups, floatings, and other dental care and a schedule can be drawn up for routine care.

The dental appointment

If the equine dentist comes to your barn, provide a clean, quiet, shady place for the work to be done. If you take your horse to a dental facility, arrive on time and follow any directions given. To ensure a lasting positive relationship, always pay promptly and remember that nearly everyone appreciates referrals and appreciative comments.

Consider this

Equine dentists suggest that flushing your horse's mouth with a forceful flow of water on a regular basis to essentially "floss" the horse's teeth and remove food that may be stuck in the teeth can help prevent dental problems and keep the horse's mouth healthy.

About the Author

EquiMed Staff

EquiMed staff writers team up to provide articles that require periodic updates based on evolving methods of equine healthcare. Compendia articles, core healthcare topics and more are written and updated as a group effort. Our review process includes an important veterinarian review, helping to assure the content is consistent with the latest understanding from a medical professional.