Why I Like Equine Dentists

Why I Like Equine Dentists

Simon had his teefs done yesterday.  I was told he had a lovely mouth, and typically only needs routine stuff done.  This is great, because there are many other parts of his body that aren’t quite so lovely.

O noes
O noes

The dentist said that some of the head flipping I’ve seen during my recent rides could be attributed to his teeth.  It had been 13 months, so they weren’t terrible by any means but he had some irritating rubbing on his tongue on one side.  That’ll be taken care of now, and in a few days he should feel like a new creature… at least dentally.

This is my dislike face
This is my dislike face

When I first started out in horse ownership, I used my regular vet for dentist work.  It wasn’t until I went to college and learned about all things fancy show horse that I even realized there was such a thing as an equine dentist.  Since then, I haven’t gone back to using a regular vet.

Philosophically I like to use vets for their specialties.  It’s only logical that someone who only does majority teeth is going to be better than someone who does teeth and tummies and legs and whatever.

Wut is happen
Wut is happen

There are also some cool perks to using an equine dentist over a vet.  The one we use in Texas brings her own stocks, and has everything set up super efficiently.  I also like that she’s very quiet and patient with the horses.


If my horse were to not have a lovely mouth, I’d feel confident that my dentist could handle most abnormalities.  With a regular vet, I might have to end up seeing a specialist anyway which is almost always more expensive.  Multiple visits and multiple shots of happy drugs add up!

After the visit, I get a detailed report about Simon’s mouth.  It makes 0 sense to me, but I put it in a file and know that his teeth are taken care of.  Anything to keep the nerd horse’s needs met.

At least he got some good happy drugs?
At least he got some good happy drugs?

So what about you – do you use an equine dentist or regular vet for your dental work?

33 thoughts on “Why I Like Equine Dentists

  1. I’ve used both, and honestly, there wasn’t much of a different. But my girls didn’t have any issues, either. I can definitely see the benefit of a true dentist for anything beyond routine floating.

  2. Equine vets are the only people here legally allowed to do equine dentistry, so obviously we go with the vet. I’m super happy with him, since he does do a lot of teeth! I also like the security of having the vet there – once at a barn I worked at we had a horse have a terrible reaction to the sedative and it was nice to have the vet on hand!

    1. I should add that this particular equine dentist is a vet that specializes in dentistry. I’m not sure if you can be an equine dentist in the US without being a DVM as well?

      1. You totally can in Oklahoma! There are several equine dentists in the area that aren’t vets.

        I’ve used both a vet and a dentist. They had completely different ways of floating. My vet sedated all horses without question, used power tools on them, and was very…efficient. The dentist looked very carefully at both horses’ mouths, pointed out what he saw wrong, used a manual rasp, and didn’t have to sedate either horse.

        I didn’t notice a significant difference in either horse’s behavior under saddle or while eating/chewing or body condition regardless of who floated them. The dentist is a lot cheaper than my vet, though, so even though I don’t really like him as a person, I still use him.

        1. i’ll also add that my vet never thought my horses’ mouths were awful, but my dentist found about 8,000 things wrong with both Moe and Gina’s mouths. Maybe they’re just seeing different stuff, but it made me suspicious!

      2. You can be an equine dentist in Vermont without being a vet, and I think Massachusetts too. When I was up in VT the barn I was at used a non-vet dentist and she was great and worked very well in conjunction with the vet if needed (like if a horse HAD to be sedated…she couldn’t sedate it because she wasn’t vet) That said though, she was amazing at working with the horses unsedated and there were very few in the barn that absolutely needed the sleepy juice with her. Now that I’m back in MA I use my regular vet and they sedate everyone without question, which annoys me a little…but I understand it. We do have a relatively new equine veterinary dental practice in the area that split off from one of the existing practices, but I haven’t tried her yet. I’m happy enough with the job that my vet does, but if something in particular came up I would definitely want a specialist!

        That’s quite the rig that Simon is in there!

  3. I use my regular vet, but she is incredibly thorough and I love her so much that I’m confident in her (also I’m pretty sure only vets are legally allowed to do dentistry work here anyways). Plus Fiction has never had a problem! She also sends me a nice detailed report afterwards in regards to what she did 🙂

  4. In regards to the above comment, I think that’s the law a lot of places. The dentists around here are DVM, though….

    I have been using a dentist for years and absolutely love him! I probably would never go back to a standard vet.

  5. One of the vets at our regular practice also specializes in equine dentistry, so we use him. We’ve been quite happy so far, and we’ve had some “special” mouths to take care of!

  6. I use my vet but only because dentistry is something he specializes in. Another lady in the same practice does all the other stuff such as lameness, shots, etc. I feel like I get the same quality dentistry work from him which costs me much less then an equine specialist dentist.

  7. Our vet is very good with teeth so I’ve never used a separate dentist. He’s actually better than the specialist in the area anyways.

    I feel very special though, my vet is so good with people and animals and has been in the business so long, I lamented leaving him when I thought I was moving away with Carlos.

  8. The first (and only time so far) Max had his teeth done was with an equine dentist. I wasn’t able to be there when she came out. Her notes and the BO said that he really didn’t need much more than a tiny bit of filing. This spring I plan on having my vet do it when they do spring vaccinations to save on the barn call fee. That’s assuming they’ll do vaccinations and dentistry on the same day.

  9. The laws about equine dentists needing to also be a DVM vary state by state. For instance, in my state the only people who can work on teeth are DVMs and EqDTs who are also licensed RVTs and the RVT MUST be under direct supervision of a DVM, cannot administered drugs and can’t do any sort of extractions because that constitutes surgery. The next state over has no such laws…

    A specialist is the way to go every time. The average equine veterinarian learned the basics, but doing teeth is hard work and most of them don’t actually want to work on teeth unless it’s their specialty…that being said, if your state doesn’t have specific laws, go with your regular DVM over someone who doesn’t have any sort of license!

  10. Another complicating factor in the ED vs DVM question is laws in some states (mine) that restrict use of sedation to DVMs.

    I use an equine dentist. She specializes in natural balance dentistry, which focuses on the incisors as well as molars, and maintaining the mobility of the tempo-mandibular joint, which promotes better, more comfortable movement. (my layman’s description)

    The horses love her. Val needs no sedation, stocks etc. He gets treated ground tied, and seems to really appreciate the treatments. Our dentist is very gentle and gives lots of breaks from the speculum.

    Our next door neighbor used to have to be sedated to the gills – a 14 h pony mare who two grown-ass women can’t get wormer into to save our lives. She follows our dentist around, and even helps hold her own mouth open. It’s astonishing really, considering how uncooperative Honey can be when you want to administer things by mouth.

    Sorry for the novel, but I do want to sing K’s praises, after working with other dental practitioners. Natural Balance is gentle, affordable and horse-centric.

  11. I’ve used a vet in the past for dental work, but since my vet left private practice and I hadn’t picked a new vet yet, I went with a dentist for Copper this year. I think legally she isn’t allowed to sedate him, but I know how he is under sedation so I wasn’t worried that we would need a vet present for that. I had a very good experience with the dentist. She brought power tools and her husband to hold Copper’s head in place and really was kind with him, plus it was cheaper than a vet because the drugs, trip fee, and actual dental work were all bundled together for $75.

  12. It was a few years back that the law changed in Texas requiring all equine dentists to be DVM’s or under the supervision of a DVM.

    So I always just used my regular vet.

  13. it’s terrible but i couldn’t even say when my leased mare’s teeth were last checked… maybe i’m kinda in denial but i suspect it’s been at least since i started leasing her a few years back…

  14. There’s a whole lot of hoopla about DVMs and Dentists. I use a natural dentist guy. Always had good luck with him, and he doesn’t sedate the horses, which is pretty damn cool. You wouldn’t think my flighty and easily pissed-off thoroughbred would stand there while someone saws at his teeth, but damn if he does.

    Because this guy doesn’t use drugs, he doesn’t have to be a DVM. But he still gets in legal trouble all the time, I find. If he has to sedate, he has to work under a vet. That’s the legality issue you find. You cant administer horse sedatives without a license, otherwise … you’re a drug dealer, yo.

  15. Here in California, it is illegal to practice dentistry or chiropractic work without being a licensed vet. I use the non-licensed chiropractor anyway, but my boys’ regular vet is also their regular dentist. My vet has been practicing for more than 30 years and is very knowledgeable about teeth. He lectures regularly on dental care and still attends clinics/trainings/etc.

    I am fortunate that my vet is so knowledgeable because I don’t have a whole lot of other local choices.

  16. Glad Simons teefs are all taken care of! Here in Ontario (not sure about the rest of Canada) you can be an equine dentist without being a DVM. I’ve found that it costs more, since he needs a vet with him to administer the drugs. The one that I’ve met is not a nice person – with the horses or the people, so I prefer to use my regular vet. Luckily my horse’s teeth are pretty normal.

  17. I use an equine dentist who is completely top notch. I think he has his DVM, but just goes around and does teeth now. He has a computer he brings with him which he uses to upload pictures of the mouth, and create charts, which are then emailed to me when he’s done. He also uses power tools (must have IMO). I’ve done it both ways and as long as the work is good, I’m happy.

  18. In Alberta Canada, there are Equine Dentists, but it is a bit of a gray matter area… Most of the good ones did their schooling at dental schools in the states and use sedatives. But it is illegal to administer sedation and not be a DVM, but they still do it. Hence, they don’t carry liability insurance if something were to go wrong in the sedation process. So it is risky.

    However, I use an equine dentist, who uses power tools and sedates. He works on teeth all day, everyday, and has the proper schooling to back up his work, so I trust him more than your average vet. I have used vets in the past, and because of Jingle’s very complicated mouth stemming from a break that was never set, I found the vets weren’t effective. But, I’m also fully aware of the slight risk I am taking in the process.

  19. I am a recent graduate of an equine dentistry school.I learned
    to do traditional equine dentistry.I do not use power tools,mechanical
    devices such as speculums nor drugs.
    My hands are my speculum and I am able to float horse’s teeth.
    There are often areas that are missed due to the inability to
    reach certain areas properly in the oral cavity because devices
    impede the ability to address problem areas.An example might be
    the buccal side of a hook on one of the 11’s or even say rounding
    the 6’s especially the 306 and 406 where smoothing is needed
    all the way around as this is the bit seat area.
    I would be interested in knowing what regions would allow for
    the practice of equine dentistry without the need of a veterinarian
    being present.

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