Equine Dentist: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become an equine dentist. Learn about the job duties, education, licensing and salary information to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Animal Care degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does an Equine Dentist Do?

An equine dentist is a veterinarian who specializes in the oral health of horses. They use specialized tools to conduct procedures such as floating, bit seat creation, incisor realignment, wave and hook correction and tooth extraction. They also treat horses with contagious oral diseases. In cases where a horse is having chewing problems or losing weight, they assist with the diagnosis of the horse's condition, whether or not is directly caused by a dental problem.

The following table provides basic information for this profession:

Degree Required Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
Education Field of Study Veterinary medicine; specialized coursework in mastication, oral cavity structures, equine restraint, teeth floating techniques
Key Responsibilities Diagnosis & treatment of the dental needs of horses
Licensure and Certification State license required for veterinarians; board-certification available for veterinarians specializing in equine dentistry
Job Growth (2014-24) 9%* (for veterinarians)
Average Salary $99,000* (for veterinarians)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Is Equine Dentistry?

Just as with humans, dental heath in horses relates to overall health, but unlike humans, horses' teeth grow continuously throughout their lives. Veterinarians practice equine dentistry to detect disease and combat chewing problems created by domestication. Equine dentists conduct dental exams and perform oral surgery on horses of all ages.

What Education Do I Need?

To work as an equine dentist, you'll need a degree in veterinary medicine. To gain acceptance into an accredited veterinary school, you'll need either a bachelor's degree or 45-90 semester hours of pre-veterinary undergraduate-level courses. You'll also need to submit scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), Veterinary College Admission Test (VCAT) or Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).

Veterinary school typically is four years in duration and includes studies in anatomy and physiology, pharmacology and pathology, as well as surgery and histology. Your program also might cover equine dentistry topics, such as mastication, oral cavity structures, equine restraint and teeth floating techniques. In your fourth year, you'll usually complete clinical rotations, which could include hands-on training in equine dental case management. Upon graduation, you'll receive a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM).

How Do I Get Licensed?

To work as a veterinarian, you'll need to obtain a license in the state where you want to practice. The licensure process varies, so you should check with your state veterinary board for specific licensing requirements. At minimum, you'll need to earn your DVM and pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam. Some states also require a clinical examination and/or an exam covering state laws and regulations. To become a board-certified equine dentist, you'll need to complete a 3- to 4-year residency program in an American Veterinary Medical Association-recognized dentistry program.

How Much Could I Earn?

Most veterinarians start their own practices or work as employees in established group practices. A 2013 survey by the American Medical Veterinary Association found that more than 20% of veterinary medical school graduates earned between $27,000 and $30,999 in their first year of full-time employment (www.avma.org). Approximately 2.4 percent of these graduates earned less than $23,000 annually, while approximately 2.4 percent made $91,000 or more. In 2015, the BLS reported that the average annual salary for veterinarians is $99,000.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are a variety of alternative specialization options for practicing veterinarians. For instance, food animal veterinarians provide vaccinations and treat diseases in cattle, pigs, sheep and other animals that are being raised as food sources. Another option is to become a research veterinarian, where you would conduct research in a particular area of interest in the field, such as drug development or animal-borne illness prevention. To become a veterinarian, you need to earn your DVM; research veterinarians may also have a Ph.D.

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