Equine Dentistry

Equine Dentistry Curriculum

College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences—Texas A&M University

The professional veterinary curriculum at the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences provides comprehensive training over a four-year period to individuals that will graduate with a DVM degree. While the following document is a synopsis of the training and opportunities that are available specifically related to equine dentistry, it should be remembered that this training is provided in a much larger context. In addition to the training received in very specific areas of interest, veterinarians are trained in many topics that apply to the care of animals with all types of medical and surgical needs, including horses requiring dental care. These topics include infectious diseases, pharmacology, anesthesiology, anatomy, pathology; and surgery; each of these courses occupies numerous hours within the curriculum and can be directly and indirectly related to preparing veterinarians to perform equine dentistry.

Fourth-year veterinary students may choose one of four tracks of study during their senior year (small animal, large animal, mixed animal and alternative track). Although small animal track students may take the above listed rotations, they are most applicable to the students that choose the large animal and mixed animal tracks. Not only will these students receive the most exposure to equine dentistry within the curriculum, they will be the veterinarians most likely to offer dentistry as a service in their practice.

Specific Training Related to Equine Dentistry

First-Year Curriculum

  • VIBS 911 - Histology - Lecture (required of all students) on types of teeth, anatomy of teeth, dental formulae with Modified Triadan System of numbering teeth, differences in brachydont and hypsodont teeth, growth patterns, microscopic arrangement of teeth, and functions of teeth.
  • VIBS 912 - Gross Anatomy - Lecture and laboratory (required of all students) on the equine head with objectives that are directly applicable including:
    • Identify and describe the vessels, nerves, and soft tissue structures which are of major clinical importance in the equine head.
    • Identify and describe the guttural pouch and associated structures (lymph nodes, blood vessels, nerves).
    • Identify and describe the equine nasal meatuses and paranasal sinuses, including identification of the actual and surgical boundaries of the paranasal sinuses.
    • Identify and describe deciduous and permanent equine teeth, including dental formulas, eruption dates, and features which are used for aging; use this information to estimate age. Be able to use the modified Triadan system of nomenclature on all domestic species. Describe the structure of equine teeth.

Second-Year Curriculum

  • VTPP 924- Pharmacology I – five credit hours:
    • (Dr. Fajt) - Introduction to pharmacology – How drugs work, how drugs enter and leave the body, principals of drug selection, adverse drug reactions and toxicities; Principals of NSAID’s (anti-inflammatory drugs, e.g., phenylbutazone).
    • (Dr. Scott) – Use of drugs that affect the central and peripheral nervous system (e.g., sedatives and local anesthetics); Principals of pain management; Principals of drugs that affect other body systems: musculoskeletal, respiratory, urinary, and GI systems.
    • (Dr. Hartsfield) – Principals of anesthetic drugs and anesthesia.
    • (Dr. Stewart) – Drugs affecting the cardiovascular system.
    • (Dr. Crist) – alternative / complementary medicine.
  • VTPP 925 – Pharmacology II – three credit hours:
    • Topics covered in the spring semester are antibiotics, endocrine drugs, reproductive drugs, parasiticides, and regulations.

Third-Year Curriculum

  • VLCS 954 - Large Animal Medicine and Surgery - 1 hour lecture and 2-hour laboratory on equine dentistry; required of all students (Dr. Griffin)
    • Lecture on dental diseases of the horse - Laboratory uses normal skulls, skulls with pathology, and live horse demonstration
    • focus on use of the dental chart for proper examination and formulation of a treatment plan
    • familiarized with examination procedures
    • demonstration on proper restraint, sedation, use of dental speculums, head support, proper lighting, and instrumentation
  • VLCS 954 - Large Animal Medicine and Surgery - 1 hour lecture on upper airway disease including secondary sinusitis from dental disease as well as many other diseases causing nasal discharge; required of all students (Dr. Rakestraw)
  • VLCS 930 - Advanced Large Animal Medicine and Surgery - 1 hour lecture on sinusitis and dental disease with an emphasis on surgical treatment; approximately 70% of each class (Dr. Rakestraw)
  • Large Animal Surgery Elective - Has a laboratory to extract teeth, perform sinus flaps, and tooth repulsion; limited to 10-12 students who are going into equine practice (Dr. Rakestraw)
  • Equine Dentistry Elective (Dr. Griffin/Dr. Martin/Dr. Joyce)
    • meets four hours per week for four weeks
    • opportunity for 16 students per elective; it is taught three times during the year for a total of 48 possible students
    • Two of the eight sessions are lectures (4 hours)
    • Three of the eight sessions are laboratories with cadaver heads (6 hours)
    • Three of the eight sessions are laboratories with live horses (6 hours)
    • laboratories focus on aging, proper examination of the mouth, and routine dental care procedures

Fourth-Year Curriculum

  • Equine Field Services (Dr. Martin/Dr. Griffin)
    • This rotation is required for all fourth-year students.
    • Students are instructed and guided through the process of examining the oral cavity and teeth. Many discussions occur during the course of an exam as abnormalities are recognized.
    • Proper nomenclature and recording of findings are emphasized. We perform routine dental procedures using both power and hand instruments, depending on the situation.
    • The students receive guidance during the rotation not only in the science of equine practice but we also spend time discussing the Aart@ of practice; for example, how do you safely and effectively handle a situation in which horse refuses to walk into the work area or refuses load into the stocks for a procedure or how do you handle an unfortunate situation in which a horse becomes unruly or goes down in the stocks during a procedure? From time to time, these and other unscheduled events can happen while working with horses, and the students benefit from first hand experience in dealing with these unexpected situations.
    • One day per week is typically devoted to equine dentistry via the following avenues:
    • TDCJ (Wynne Unit); work on 12-20 horses per trip; this experience is usually with young horses and consists of sedation, floating sharp points (power instruments and hand instruments), wolf teeth extractions (with local anesthetic), removal of >caps=, and forming of >bit-seats=.
    • Access to University animals; (For example, one day per week during the rotation can be used to perform annual dental care for Parson=s Calvary horses. There are 40 head in herd. Typically, we perform the exam and procedures on four horses per week over a ten-week period).
    • Local client-owned horses B variable caseload, up to four horses per week.
    • 3-5 students per one-week rotation; The caseload varies from two to three dental cases per week to as many as twenty equine dental cases per rotation.
  • Field Service Elective (Dr. Martin/Dr. Griffin)
    • Opportunity for two additional weeks on the Service with similar dental caseload possibilities.
  • TDCJ Rotation
    • Service cares for approximately 1,700 horses of varying age, sex, and use; dental examinations and procedures performed when each horse is dewormed. This service has 3 to 4 students on 21 rotation in the year.
  • TDCJ Rotation (Dr. Posey)
    • Service does dental examinations on all horses at the Northern TDCJ units at every deworming event.
    • Approximately 400 horses are dewormed every 3 months
    • The horses that require dental procedures vary from unit to unit. Dental floating is usually performed under field conditions with crutch head support, tranquilization, and full mouth speculum.
    • These floats are performed with power equipment and hand floats.
    • The goal is to float all horses in the Northern TDCJ units at least once per year.
    • The Wynne Unit houses 1/3 of the horse population and the dental care is performed by Dr. Griffin, Dr. Posey, and Dr. Dinges. TDCJ Rotation (Dr. Dinges)
    • Service floats teeth on all horses at Southern TDCJ Units at least once per year.
    • There are approximately 270 horses at these Units.
    • On dentistry days, they float teeth of 15-20 horses.
    • Procedures are performed under field conditions with sedation, full-mouth speculum, crutch head support, and power instruments.
    • A small number of students have the opportunity each summer to go on week-long trips to satellite units throughout the state to float teeth; 30-40 horses are typically floated per day
  • Equine Community Practice (Dr. Joyce)
    • Averages 4-5 horses per rotation for dentistry
    • Local, out-of-town, and referral clientele for dental cases
    • Cases range from simple examination and flotation to more complicated dental problems, such as malocclusions, geriatric dental diseases, treatment of periodontal disease, and removal of retained deciduous teeth.
    • Extractions are performed occasionally; some cases are referred to the surgery section for general anesthesia and tooth removal.
  • Equine Surgery
    • The caseload varies, but the Service frequently sees cases requiring surgical care of dental disease including nasal discharge and those requiring tooth repulsion.
    • Radiology – students on the radiology service assist with radiographic examinations. The students are instructed in the principals of interpretation of radiographic images of many types of clinical cases, including those with dental abnormalities. The majority of dental radiographs in horses are performed with computed or digital technology at Texas A&M University.
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