Riverina Equine Vet



10 Things to Look for in Your Equine Dentist


The term "equine dentist” is misleading and not recognised by any regulatory body in this country. The term "equine dentist" suggests that a person is formally trained in a proper 4-5 year university course - as happens with human dentists. After all, horses' teeth are just as complicated as human teeth. But sadly the university training is usually not the case. And so horse owners are very exposed to shonky operators. Although claiming to be able to do a great job, they may be no more than smooth-talking horse handlers who are able to rub a rasp along the teeth of many horses in one day.

Most owners are aware of the short term benefits of good dental maintenance - to maximise comfort to the horse whilst chewing and when being ridden or driven. But few realise just how important a sound mouth is in the horse's longevity and keeping it competitive for as long as possible.


10 things to look for in your equine dentist:

  1. Good reputation. What is your equine dentist most renowned for? Cheap services? Ability to do dentals extremely quickly? Or are they known for their excellent knowledge, training and examination skills?
  2. Examines the mouth properly. In order to properly examine the mouth and teeth the equine dentist must use a full dental gag, flush the feed out of the mouth, use a light, mirror, probe etc to both LOOK and feel inside the mouth. A good horse dentist should explain, show or allow you to feel the condition of the horse’s mouth.
  3. Uses sedation. In order to examine and perform a proper dental on the mouth your horse MUST BE SEDATED. Sedation relaxes the muscles of the jaw enabling access to the teeth right at the back of the mouth. This is one of the most common areas we see sharp teeth and ulcerated gums in horses which have had their teeth “done” without sedation.
  4. Comprehensive dental charts used and issued. This is a medical record, and is often useful in the future eg. selling the horse, future dental problems. It is also a gesture by the dentist that they're willing to "sign" their work.
  5. Scientific background. Just like when dealing with humans, dentistry requires a scientific background in equine anatomy, physiology, medicine, diseases etc. Beware of anyone who has done a 2-week course, suddenly calling themselves an "equine dentist". Compare them to someone who has spent years at university studying the body's healing processes, how the body develops and grows, how teeth function and impact on overall health, how pain and infection is transmitted in the body and the effects it has, how to treat it etc.
  6. Uses pain relief. Your equine dentist should use pain relief in the form of local anaesthetic etc. when removing any teeth including wolf teeth. Would you go to a human dentist that doesn’t use local anaesthetic to pull your tooth?
  7. Value for money. Remember, you usually get what you pay for. Beware of any horse dentists who get through more than 2-3 horses per hour. This is physically and logistically impossible to do without seriously compromising the quality of the examination and treatment. Often, major dental disease goes undiagnosed and thus untreated. To be doing a high quality of dentistry, a dentist can only get through 1-2 horses per hour (if things are going smoothly!)
  8. Accountability. Does your horse dentist work under a governing body to which they are accountable to? (eg the Vet Surgeon's Board).
  9. Contributes to society and issues a tax invoice. This means they are an honest taxpayer who is willing to contribute to our hospitals, schools, roads etc and so not just profiting for themselves. It also means they'll strive to gain tax deductions through investing in better training and equipment, and so will continually improve their services to benefit you in the future.
  10. Has insurance. Insurance is important and necessary to cover for unforeseen serious accidents, injuries and professional errors in judgment, bad outcomes etc.