Should I Become an Equine Dentist?
Just like humans, horses need proper dental care to lead healthy lives. An equine dentist is a veterinarian that specializes in the dental care of horses. Veterinarians who treat horses travel from their offices to ranches, farms, and homes located in rural areas. They might perform their work outdoors in various types of weather. The conditions under which they perform dental surgery could be less sanitary than those found in the veterinary clinic. The median annual salary for veterinarians was $88,490 as of May 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
|Degree Level||Doctor of Veterinary Medicine|
|Degree Field||Veterinary medicine|
|Licensure||Required in all states|
|Experience||Experience working with horses in either formal and informal settings|
|Key Skills||Compassion, good interpersonal and decision-making skills, manual dexterity; general veterinary knowledge, and specialized knowledge in equine dentistry tools and procedures|
|Salary||$88,490 (2015 median for veterinarians)|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Steps to Become an Equine Dentist
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
Those interested in becoming equine dentists need to first earn bachelor's degrees. Relevant majors that can prepare students for doctoral studies include veterinary medicine, veterinary sciences, or veterinary technology. Although any field of study is typically acceptable, some veterinary schools might require applicants to complete undergraduate coursework in biology, zoology, animal nutrition, and chemistry.
Step 2: Complete a Doctoral Program
Though not all states require equine dentists to be veterinarians, many regulate the discipline to those licensed in veterinary medicine. A Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) is a professional degree that qualifies graduates to obtain state licensure. You'll learn anatomy and diseases of large and small animals, as well as diagnostic, surgical, and treatment procedures. Several schools and teaching hospitals with DVM programs include large animal clinics that offer practical training with horses, cows, and other livestock.
Step 3: Test for Licensure
To practice veterinary medicine, all states mandate licensure. A veterinary license requires passing the National American Veterinary Licensing Exam, and many states also include an additional state-regulated test that covers specific state laws and professional competencies. Exceptions exist in a few states for veterinary technicians and those that practice only equine dentistry, though other restrictions might apply to the profession. Some states allow non-licensed equine dental professionals to practice under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian, and others limit the type of oral services they can provide.
Step 4: Acquire Specialized Training
Doctoral students and graduates have research and practical opportunities in the field of equine dentistry through universities, hospitals, veterinary clinics, and private organizations. Through these fellowships, internships, and training programs, individuals can practice specialized dentistry, imaging, and oral surgery on horses. Due to the specialization of the field, these programs might have restrictive admissions or limit the number of participants.
Step 5: Obtain Certification
Though not required, certification is offered by the International Association of Equine Dentistry. Members of the organization must be sponsored by a currently certified equine dentist and have sufficient experience to qualify for certification testing. As a professional's skill level increases, they can choose to test for an advanced credential. The organization requires continuing education in the field to maintain the certification.
To work as an equine dentist, you'll likely need to become a veterinarian, which involves earning a doctorate degree in veterinary medicine and becoming licensed by your state.