Equine Dentistry

Choosing the Right Person to Care for your Horse

The Basic Facts

Animal owners are interested in doing what is best for their animals—including providing the best medical care. More and more it is becoming clear that good dental health is one of the key elements to good overall health. Unfortunately, determining who should provide dental services can be very confusing. As is true when choosing anyone to provide medical services, it is important to understand the qualifications of the individuals who are providing dental services to your equine companions. TVMA is providing the following information to assist the public in understanding the difference between the care provided by a licensed veterinarian and an Equine Dental Provider (EDP) and a lay person who is operating illegally.

REMEMBER: Equine dentistry is so much more than floating or filing teeth, an act that can—in itself—irreversibly damage a horse’s teeth. Instead, equine dentistry is a key part of comprehensive equine health care, which includes the teeth floating procedure AND an evaluation of a horse’s entire mouth (i.e., teeth, gums, jaw, tongue) and body to look for signs of disease. As a part of a complete veterinary physical exam, a doctor of veterinary medicine evaluates the entire horse for signs of infectious disease, systemic disease, limb problems, heart problems and/or lung problems. An untrained individual, who lacks knowledge of comprehensive oral care, would likely miss a serious medical condition.

Watch out for Confusing Titles

According to recently passed legislation, which goes into full effect in September of 2012, in the state of Texas, a person may not legally perform equine dentistry or offer or attempt to act as an Equine Dental Provider unless the person is either a veterinarian or a “licensed equine dental provider”(EDP) performing under the general supervision of a veterinarian.

Other individuals are prohibited by law from representing to the public that they are authorized to perform equine dentistry and may not use the title “dentist.” Licensed Equine Dental Providers may use the title “CEDP” upon licensure or “EDP” if they are licensed under the Grandfather clause before September 2012. When you shop around for quality equine dental care, you should be wary of anyone referring to themselves as a “dentist.” The word “dentist” has significant legal meaning for a person who has post-graduate/doctoral education and further is licensed by the State Board of Dentistry. The use of this term is very misleading, and overtly unethical. We believe the use of this unearned medical title confuses consumers and puts our horses at risk.

Currently there are many unsupervised, unlicensed lay people offering to provide equine dental work in the state of Texas with virtually no training whatsoever. Some misrepresent their work or level of education through the use of titles, words or letters such as “EqD” or “dentist” which indicate that they are authorized and qualified to do such work.

The general public is often unaware that these titles and letters lack any meaning and that unlicensed individuals lack regulatory oversight or recourse when they make a mistake, leaving them without protection from the unscrupulous, negligent or unskilled. If a veterinarian or an Equine Dental Provider (EDP) makes a mistake, they must answer to the state board and defend their license; however, unsupervised, unregulated, lay people lack minimum enforceable standards or educational requirements and, therefore, are not held to the same level of professionalism or accountability.

Scope of Practice- Equine Dental Providers (EDPs)

Equine Dental Providers (EDPs) are licensed professionals who work with veterinarians either as independent contractors or employees to perform certain aspects of equine dentistry under the general supervision of a veterinarian who has an established veterinary-client-patient relationship with the owner or caretaker of the animal.

EDP’s may perform only the following procedures under the general supervision of a veterinarian.

  1. removing sharp enamel points;
  2. removing small dental overgrowths;
  3. rostral profiling of the first cheek teeth;
  4. reducing incisors;
  5. extracting loose, deciduous teeth;
  6. removing supragingival calculus;
  7. extracting loose, mobile or diseased teeth or dental fragments with minimal periodontal attachments by hand and without the use of an elevator; and
  8. removing erupted, non-displaced wolf teeth.

Unlicensed employees of veterinarians may perform the procedures listed above only under the direct supervision of a veterinarian. A copy of the dental chart of an equine animal is to be left with the person who authorizes an equine dental procedure and is to be made available to the supervising veterinarian upon request.

Licensure of Equine Dental Providers (EDPs)

You can find out more information about the licensure of EDPs by visiting the Texas State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners (TSBVME) website http://www.tbvme.state.tx.us/. Currently, the state is in a grandfathering period where no license is required to practice as an equine dental provider until Sept. 1, 2012.  Prior to September of 2012 individuals face much less stringent licensing requirements to become EDPs. After September of 2012, EDPs must meet the following licensing requirements. Individuals who are interested in becoming licensed as EDPs should contact the TSBVME at 512-305-7555.


A person is qualified to be licensed as an “equine dental provider” if the person:

  1. Submits an application and information to allow the board to conduct a background check,
  2. passes a jurisprudence examination,
  3. is not disqualified under this chapter or board rule,
  4. is certified by the International Association of Equine Dentistry OR another board-approved certification entity or organization,
  5. completes six hours of annual continuing education

The Use of Drugs in Equine Dentistry

One of the important reasons that supervision of non-veterinarians performing equine dentistry is necessary is because proper use of dangerous tranquilizing drugs requires a basic understanding of the pharmacology and physiology of such drugs.

Non-veterinarians are prohibited by state and federal law from prescribing or administering prescription and controlled substances to animals which do not belong to them. However, in order to practice within the current standard of care, drugs such as sedatives are required in most cases to safely apply a full mouth speculum and perform a meticulous job. As veterinarians have developed new techniques and equipment, shared information and elevated the level of oral care; it has become known that an oral speculum is necessary for a thorough examination of the oral cavity along with precise filing of the teeth. Without an oral speculum access and visualization to the caudal part of the mouth is limited potentially compromising the standard of care as the teeth continue to erupt and the sharp edges continue to cut into the tongue and gums. Because oral speculums can be heavy and may cause discomfort and anxiety to the horse, sedation is necessary for both safety and humane care. In addition, the individual working on the horse and the horse itself are at a greater risk of injury when dentistry is performed without the benefit of appropriate tranquilizers.

Practicing dentistry without sedation is inhumane in many cases because it may cause undue pain and stress to the horse. Non-veterinarians do not have the authorization, knowledge or pharmacological training to appropriately use sedatives or reverse negative reactions to drugs such as seizures or other unexpected reactions which can harm or even kill the horse. They also lack a fundamental understanding of when it is necessary to use antibiotics or other agents to protect the health of the horse and prevent the spread of disease. In most cases, antibiotics are available only by prescription and cannot be legally prescribed or administered by non-veterinarians. In fact, non-veterinarians are unlikely to even have the training to recognize an infectious disease if they saw one. Current sedatives are federally regulated drugs due to safety concerns and potential for abuse. Accidental oral ingestion of xylazine or detomidine will cause hypotension, bradycardia, hypoventilation and anesthesia necessitating mechanical ventilation in many cases. Accidental intramuscular injection with as little as 2 ml may be fatal. A recent report (Occup Med [Lond]. Jun 23) of topical exposure of detomidine which caused acute poisoning which necessitated intervention, emphasizes the potential danger of these drugs when used by untrained individuals. Veterinarians are the only ones qualified to make decisions regarding the use of sedative/analgesic drugs in horses.


Licensed Veterinarian

Unsupervised, Unregulated, Non-veterinarians (UUNV)


Education Requirements

High School Graduate College Graduate (4 years)

Veterinary School Graduate (4 years)



Licensure Requirements
Take and pass North American Veterinary Licensing Examination and Texas Licensing Examination
Annual Continuing Education Requirements
Minimum of 17 hours
Regulated By State of Texas - Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners

Veterinarians are licensed to administer both prescription and controlled drugs to animals before performing dentistry - a necessity in most cases.

Veterinarians are also trained in pharmacology which allows them to properly administer, manage and monitor drugs. This knowledge and training enables them to anticipate adverse events and manage them early in order to minimize complications.

It is illegal for UUNV's to administer either prescription or controlled drugs to another person's animal.
Prescription Drugs Veterinarians are licensed to prescribe and administer prescription drugs, such as antibiotics, to an animal. These drugs are often critical to an animal's recovery. It is illegal for EDTs to administer or prescribe prescription drugs, including antibiotics, to another person's animal.
Complaint Process File complaint (free) with Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners; Board investigates; violators are punished by Board None

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