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Equine dentists are specialists in the dental care of all types of horses. Horses’ teeth are naturally designed for living and eating in the wild, where they would graze on a greater variety of grass for an average of 16 to 18 hours a day. By living in domesticated environment, the change to a horse's diet and habits can result in bad teeth and difficulties in feeding.
With adult horses having 36 teeth and very specific dental needs, equine dentistry is a specialist field. However, equine dentists are non-veterinary which means that they do not have to be qualified as a vet in order to practice in horse dentistry. Equine dentists will deal solely with dental matters, including routine checks and care. Should a horse require sedation and surgery, a non-veterinary equine dentist will require a qualified vet to be present during the procedure.
Generally, equine dentists do not carry out veterinary surgery, but there are some veterinary clinics that specialise in equine dentistry. Equine dentistry is a niche skill and the services are highly sought after, meaning that equine dentistry is a worthy profession of someone interested in a career working with horses.
The routine examination that an equine dentist may need to carry out will involve:
If a horse starts showing symptoms such as dropping food, or throwing their head back when being ridden, they may need to have a check-up. Usually horse owners are recommended to schedule check-ups at least once a year, but some may choose when to book an appointment to be more cost-effective. Unfortunately, with there being no legal professional requirements to perform basic equine dental check-ups, there are many people who perform dental procedures themselves, inadvertently causing a health-risk to the horse.
Only trained equine dentists are permitted to perform tooth extractions and more serious procedures. Organisations such as the British Association of Equine Dental Technicians (BAEDT) are working to improve and support the work of trained equine dentists and technicians, to protect the health and welfare of horses.