Selecting an Equine Dentist

There are several ways that you can go about your search for a qualified professional in the field of equine dentistry. Here are some guidelines to assist you in the process.

The website of the IAED currently has its member listings grouped by geographical location, starting with the global region and sequencing into more local jurisdictions; the members are listed alphabetically, certified followed by non-certified, with whatever information each member chooses to include individually. There are many technicians willing to travel and some will routinely work at locations remote from their homes, even overseas.

It is part of our ethical code to not conspire in any manner to fix prices charged to the public that we serve, so fees can vary by individual, region, the type or extent of services available (e.g. hand floating vs power equipment), trip fees, the need for sedation or veterinary supervision/consultation, assistants, and the amount or level of work performed per equine.

In the field of equine dentistry all practitioners are technicians. Some of us are graduate veterinarians (DVMs) licensed to practice veterinary medicine in a local jurisdiction, who can diagnose and treat illness, injuries, etc., as well as perform dentistry. DVMs are trained and licensed to administer sedatives, at their sole discretion, and are legally held responsible for the safe and proper use of these medications. This is important and critical for you to understand and consider in the care of your equine, as many equines will require sedation for dentistry to be performed in a humane manner and to a level that is currently recognized as satisfactory in the profession. Veterinarians are not required to be certified to practice dentistry, but many of us currently are (DVM-IAED/C, AC, or Ex), and you should inquire about this qualification with your vet.
EqDTs are lay practitioners that have been trained to perform dentistry procedures by experienced technicians and/or through formal education in an appropriate manner, using humane techniques that are intended to alleviate pain caused by current or potential dental problems and enhance their comfort and well-being without doing harm. Though some may be certified, even to an advanced level, EqDTs are not veterinarians and therefore cannot diagnose or treat illnesses, injuries, etc., are not trained or licensed to dispense or administer sedatives for the public, and all EqDTs are expected to inform you of this distinction for your protection.
The need for sedation will require that you or your technician have a veterinarian-client-patient relationship established for the equine to be sedated for any dentistry procedure. Some vets are not comfortable with sedating for EqDTs as it is the vets who bear the ultimate responsibility for the outcome of the sedation, and their decision regarding this is at their sole discretion. In some jurisdictions, EqDTs are limited by law as to the procedures that they can perform, and may be required to work only under the direct supervision of an attending veterinarian.
You should be informed of these conditions before any work is undertaken, and plan accordingly.

There are both EqDTs and DVMs that have chosen to become “certified” in equine dentistry, which means they have acquired the training and experience needed to pass a critical examination of their work by very experienced and previously certified members of this profession. An explanation of our member categories and certification levels is available to you on this website.
Members of the IAED are issued an ID card that will indicate their tested level achieved to date.

We do not currently categorize our IAED membership by years of experience in the profession, but all you need to do is ask any member for that information. They will expect you to inquire regarding their training and experience. References should be readily available and verifiable. Certifications and qualifications will be indicated for each member within this website.
Professional reputation and referrals are still the primary selection criteria in this profession, and we all strive to maintain a high standard for the overall betterment of the equine industry and ourselves individually.
Keep in mind that there is a difference between “ten years of experience” and one year’s experience simply repeated ten times over; also, the level of dentistry performed in 2003 has advanced compared to what was acceptable in past decades. The IAED holds instructional conferences annually to keep our members current on advancements or recommendations in procedure, and we require certified members to either attend or show proof of any other approved further education/ training that they have undertaken periodically in order to maintain their certification status.

Properly executed and humanely performed equine dentistry is not, nor should it be a contest of strength, will or ego on the part of the dentist; rather it is a matter of knowledge and experience combined with appropriate instrumentation and technique used to accomplish an intricate task for the purposes of better health care and promoting safe, beneficial interactions in the human/equine partnership. Our equines serve and enrich our lives, thus they deserve our due diligence in return if we are to consider ourselves to be responsible caretakers.
The IAED can suspend or revoke both certification and membership by action of the board of directors in instances where it deems necessary. Any practical exam can be immediately terminated if not being performed in the horse’s best interest, or if there is excessive trauma in the procedure.
All practitioners are expected to provide conscientious and ethical service, documented and at a fair fee, to stand by their work and perform it in compliance with local laws.

Some form of confinement is usually necessary for us to examine horses and work effectively, especially when they are unsedated, to minimize risks and hazards inherent in the process. We all need some water for instrument hygiene and for rinsing mouths; vets may carry water service in truck “vet-bodies”.
If power equipment is going to be used then access to electrical service is needed, unless the tech carries generating capability. Good lighting helps, but glaring light can impede visualizing the oral cavity; we usually carry some form of focused lighting ourselves for this purpose.
Though many of us are experienced horsemen/women, it is not our responsibility or desire to break or catch horses for you, so please help us by being punctual and attentive so that we can do our work effectively for your equine.

Equine dentistry remains to this day the singularly most important management procedure in the health care of horses after their nutrition needs are met, yet it remains the most neglected area for far too many horses, even by some very experienced caretakers and veterinary practitioners. Gradually, and thankfully, this situation is beginning to change for the better. Awareness is growing, and practitioner numbers are increasing, however quantity does not always equate with quality.
While perhaps less visible and seemingly more complicated than farriery or equipage in training, dentistry seems still to have some mystery for many people in our industry. Though it does have some complexities and requires considerable training to acquire expertise, dentistry is nevertheless readily understandable, both in principles and practice, when explained and demonstrated by knowledgeable practitioners.

You, as principle caretaker, are responsible for the health and well-being of the equines that you own or manage; it is our job to help you in that endeavor by doing our work well and by keeping you informed in the process. Any dental practitioner that you employ should be willing and able to communicate with you and your vet readily about what needs doing, what they can do or have done, and what remains to be done when they are finished. In addition, it is important that any veterinarian-client-patient relationship not be compromised.

Kenneth Fletcher, C/Eq.D.T., Virginia, USA