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Equine Dentist: Job Description & Career Requirements

Read on for more information about working in equine dentistry. See what the education and training requirements are for equine dentists. Get job prospects to decide if this is the right field for you.

Career Definition for an Equine Dentist

Equine dentists help maintain the health of a horse's continually growing teeth and correct problems such as uneven chewing surfaces that lead to inadequate nutrition and poor performance. Equine dentists spend the majority of their time performing preventive dentistry on horses. The most commonly performed procedure is called floating. It is a manual procedure that smooths the sharp points from a horse's tooth that can cause mouth pain and cuts that result in difficulty riding and controlling the animal. The modern horse diet lacks traditional grazing, which fails to provide the tooth wear of a traditional diet. Equine dentists may also perform extractions and employ sedation, according to the International Association of Equine Dentists (IAED).

Education Equine dentistry training to become a licensed technician; Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree to become a vet
Job Skills Compassion, love for horses, communication skills
Median Salary (2017)* $90,420 for veterinarians
Job Growth (2016-2026)* 19% for veterinarians

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Educational requirements for equine dentists have become a source of controversy and vary widely by state; however, all must at least be a licensed technician who has completed specialized coursework in equine dentistry. All states allow a licensed Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) to perform all aspects of equine dentistry; the scope of equine dental technicians has been limited in recent years to exclude sedation and use of motorized tools unless under the supervision of a vet.

Veterinary training requires an undergraduate degree, acceptance into a veterinary school, and completion of its four-year program, according to the IAED. Vets are schooled in the care, diagnosis, and treatment of all small and large animals, leading some horse owners to question whether they have enough specialized knowledge in equine dentistry.

Most states require equine dental technicians to complete formal training from an equine dentistry program. Those students receive focused instruction in a variety of courses, including equine anatomy and performance dentistry, according to Oklahoma Equine Dentistry Law.

Skills Required

Equine dentistry, whether performed by veterinarians or technicians, requires compassion and a love and understanding of horses. Excellent communications skills are needed to explain procedures and their risks and possible outcomes to a horse's owners and trainer.

Career and Economic Outlook

Equine dentistry has seen a resurgence in the past decade due to technological advances and the recognition that regular care saves money on feeding bills, increases equine function, and prevents needless suffering, according to the American Association of Equine Practitioners. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median 2017 salary among all veterinarians was $90,420. The agency also reported that veterinarians could expect job growth of 19% from 2016-2026.

Alternative Career Options

For other careers in animal care, consider these options below:

Veterinary Assistant

A veterinary assistant provides hands-on care to animals under the supervision of a veterinarian and provides direct support to veterinarians. Veterinary assistants give first-aid and post-op care to animals. They help vets perform medical exams, collect samples, and assist in surgical procedures. Cleanliness of examining and operating rooms, animal cages or kennels, and surgical tools are also the responsibility of veterinary assistants. Veterinary assistants may also groom, feed, exercise, and administer prescribed medicines to animals in their care. Most veterinary assistants have a high school diploma and previous animal care experience; they learn their duties on-the-job. Voluntary professional certifications are available. The BLS reports that jobs for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers are predicted to increase 19% from 2016-2026 and that this group of occupations paid a median salary of $26,140 in 2017.

Animal Care and Service Worker

Animal care and service workers provide daily care to animals, like feeding them, grooming them, and making sure they get proper exercise. They keep kennels, stalls, and cages clean. They may also have a role in training animals. The duties of an animal care and service worker can vary widely by employer. Some of these workers specialize, such as groomers or animal trainers. Most animal care and service workers have a high school diploma, and on-the-job training is common. Depending on the area of specialty, some postsecondary education or training is available, such as in animal training. Animal care and service workers may also earn voluntary certifications. Jobs in this field are predicted to grow 22% from 2016-2026, per the BLS. Animal care and service workers earned a median salary of $23,160 in 2017, according to the BLS.


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