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Who is qualified for equine dentistry?

Knowing who is qualified to carry out dental procedures on your horse can be confusing. To combat this the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) has issued guidance to horse owners to help them understand the rules surrounding equine dental care.
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Type ‘equine dentist’ into any internet search engine and you are likely to encounter a plethora of information and a wide range of horse dental care providers. But despite this vast array of accessible material, there is still misunderstanding among horse owners over who can do what in a horse’s mouth.


To help protect the health and safety of horses and the legal status of those involved, the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) has a section devoted to equine dental care on its website www.beva.org.uk/useful-info/CareersinEquineHealth/Dental-Technician, including a document on current regulations for dental procedures.


It is important for horse owners to recognise all diagnostic and treatment procedures in the horse’s mouth (recognising and rectifying abnormalities) are Acts of Veterinary Surgery under the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966.


The removal of small dental overgrowths and sharp enamel points with hand rasps is considered to be routine care rather than diagnosis or treatment and can legally be carried out by anyone.


However, there are some procedures which, despite being Acts of Veterinary Surgery under the law, may be delegated safely to suitably-qualified equine dental technicians (EDTs) without compromising a horse’s welfare and safety.


Suitably-qualified EDTs are those who have a Defra-approved qualification, having either passed the rigorous BEVA/British Veterinary Dental Association (BVDA) examination or the Worldwide Association of Equine Dentistry (WWAED) examination.


These are the only qualifications currently recognised in the UK, so while other training opportunities in the UK or abroad are frequently advertised or quoted, only these two qualifications permit an individual to carry out category two procedures.


Vicki Nicholls, equine vet at Wright and Morten in Cheshire, chair of BEVA Council’s Paraprofessional Committee and member of the British Association of Equine Dental Technicians (BAEDT) says: “It is scary so many horse owners do not recognise the health, welfare and legal risks they are taking if they do not know the status of the person carrying out dental procedures on their horse.


“Getting it wrong might not only result in pain and poor performance for the horse, but could put the owner on the wrong side of the law.”


Horse owners should also be aware only a veterinary surgeon is permitted to sedate a horse, either by intravenous injection or supply of oral sedatives. A non-vet supplying oral sedatives or other prescription only drugs, or administering a sedative in any form, is liable for prosecution.


BEVA recommends that if you are a horse owner, you should safeguard your horse (and yourself) by:

  • Asking your dental care provider whether or not they have passed the BEVA/BVDA exam or the WWAED exam (or checking online they are full members of the BAEDT or WWAED).
  • Asking your dental care provider if they are allowed to do whatever needs doing in your horse’s mouth (and checking with your vet if in doubt).
  • Asking what continuing dental education your dental care provider has done in the last couple of years.
  • Checking your dental care provider has third party and professional indemnity insurance in case anything goes wrong.

The number of vets taking the BEVA/BVDA exam in equine dentistry has increased in recent years with about 15 per cent of those who have passed the exam being vets.


This is indicative of the growing awareness, among owners and vets, of the importance of dental health. Recently, both certificate and diploma level post-graduate qualifications in equine dentistry have become available for veterinary surgeons with increasing numbers enrolling and achieving these very high level specialist qualifications.


Category one procedures

THE procedures an individual can perform after recognised training without specific attainment of qualifications:

  • Examination of teeth
  • Removal of sharp enamel points using manual rasps only
  • Removal of small dental overgrowths (maximum 4mm reductions) using manual rasps only
  • Rostral profiling of the first cheek teeth (maximum 4mm reductions), previously termed ‘bit seat shaping’
  • Removal of loose deciduous caps
  • Removal of supragingival calculus

Category two procedures

Additional procedures suitable for delegation to an EDT which has trained and passed an examination approved by Defra:

  • Examination, evaluation and recording of dental abnormalities
  • Removal of loose teeth or dental fragments with negligible periodontal attachments
  • Removal of erupted, non-displaced wolf teeth in the upper or lower jaw under direct and continuous veterinary supervision
  • Palliative rasping of fractured and adjacent teeth
  • The use of motorised dental instruments to reduce overgrowths and remove sharp enamel points only – horses should be sedated unless it is deemed safe to undertake any proposed procedure without sedation, with full informed consent of the owner

Category three procedures

ALL other procedures and any new procedures arising as a result of scientific and technical development would by default fall into category three, which are those procedures restricted to qualified veterinary surgeons and are not proposed for deregulation. It is therefore illegal for these to be performed by non-veterinarians.



The recognition of equine dentistry as a field of veterinary medicine is apparent in the vast array of equine dental continuing professional development (CPD) available to equine vets and paraprofessionals worldwide.


In the UK there is the BEVA/BVDA exam, which has been successfully passed by more than 130 candidates, including 22 veterinary surgeons. There are now five holders of the current advanced veterinary practitioner equine dentistry certificate and more than 25 people have completed one or more modules.


The diploma is relatively new and offers a further step for equine vets wishing to expand their knowledge and qualifications even further.


There are a number of webinars available to explore the art and science of equine dentistry, including those by the BEVA free to members and including the BEVA congress sessions.


Finally, there are also a number of practical courses available which range from the new graduate courses and taster BAEDT sessions to more advanced practitioner CPD covering specialist techniques such as the newer cheek teeth extraction procedures.


There are several routes available to becoming a qualified equine dental technician, including training as a qualified veterinary surgeon, and more information is available from the BEVA website http://www.beva.org.uk/useful-info/CareersinEquineHealth/Dental-Technician.


There is also an option to train as an apprentice with a BEVA/BVDA qualified EDT, or veterinary surgeon with the aim of preparing the individual for the BEVA/BVDA examination, details of which are available here http://www.beva.org.uk/useful-info/CareersinEquineHealth/Dental-Technician/EDT-Exam.


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