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Vets vs Horse Dentists

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  • Vets vs Horse Dentists

    Recently there have been a number of articles about horse dentists being restricted from practicing, or only practicing under the supervision of a vet. I've heard that in some states teeth floating can cost $450....but in other states the same procedure costs $55.

    What's been the experience of the COTH BB readers? What do you guys think about the veterinary boards taking this on?
    Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress.
    Alfred A. Montapert

  • #2
    My major concern is the unlicensed individuals who administer sedatives.
    I would like to see some sort of licensing--I don't think one needs to be a DVM to float teeth, but I think that there ought to be some way for a horse owner to be assured that the "dentist" isn't just some guy who thought this looked like a good way to make some unreportable income and pick up chicks. (and yes, I've met these particular specimens...)
    "It's like a Russian nesting doll of train wrecks."--CaitlinandTheBay

    ...just settin' on the Group W bench.


    • Original Poster

      Originally posted by Ghazzu View Post
      My major concern is the unlicensed individuals who administer sedatives.
      I would like to see some sort of licensing--I don't think one needs to be a DVM to float teeth, but I think that there ought to be some way for a horse owner to be assured that the "dentist" isn't just some guy who thought this looked like a good way to make some unreportable income and pick up chicks. (and yes, I've met these particular specimens...)
      Sounds reasonable, but OK made it a felony offense. Apparently a former rodeo star took up horse dentistry and was busted. The uproar caused when he was arrested caused that the law to be revisited. I believe TX has sent cease and desists to all horse dentists.

      In my area there are so many good horse dentists that if you have an incompetent, they won't get business. My horse dentist is not licensed but does the top barns and has a waiting list. The problem with incompetents seems to be where there is little choice for the consumer.

      In MD a horse massage person has been taken to court.

      I was just wondering who/what organization is behind these efforts....seems to be the "thing" these days.
      Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress.
      Alfred A. Montapert


      • #4
        I believe, in the MD case, it was the MD chiropractic board.
        "It's like a Russian nesting doll of train wrecks."--CaitlinandTheBay

        ...just settin' on the Group W bench.


        • #5
          Our dentist is a DVM. He only does dentistry but he does an excellent job. Both of my guys require sedation and it does make me feel a little bit better that he is a vet too.
          No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle. ~Winston Churchill
          For Hope, For Strength, For Life-Delta Gamma
          www.etsy.com/shop/joiedevivrecrafts Custom Wreaths and Other Decorations


          • #6
            They tried to pass that here in PA and it thankfully failed. OUr vet is NOT great at teeth. I will take my dentist over him any day for teeth. The vet can stick to drugs and boo boos. The vet does no horse without doping it first and he is 250.00 with doping. Ha! Try that times 14 horses. NOT!! The dentist is 50 bucks. He checks all horses and does only the ones that need it. There had only been one year when (sadly for the wallet) it was all of them. He only charges for the ones he does. I have never heard the vet tell anyone their horse does not need it this year........
            The dentist will not admin sedatives. If ya need that either the vet or the owner has to do it, but he does not want that liability. On the flip side, he is so good with the horses none of ours have ever needed it. He simply takes his time and calms any nervous young uns better than any horse whisperer. He also runs a 6 week waiting list.
            Providence Farm


            • #7
              My vet "subcontracts" to a dentist. She doesn't do teeth if she can avoid it, possibly a shoulder injury, I forget the reason. It looks like hard work with a manual float.

              So two or three times a year we have Dentist Day for a group of horses, and the vet sedates them while the dentist breaks out the power tools.

              I get one bill for both, I pay the vet and she pays the dentist.

              (As a bonus this year the BO pulled Patrick's mane while he was sedated. No sense wasting good drugs, she said!)
              ... and Patrick


              • #8
                In this area there are also quite a few excellent equine dentists. I use an equine dentist and have been very pleased. My dentist does most of his work without sedation and does not use any power tools. A routine float is a relaxing experience for most horses. The sedation issue is a tricky one. I do know of dentists who practice in conjunction with a vet, who administers the sedative and then the owner gets billed for both.

                After getting to know the dentists I know, I would be a little bit hesitant to use a vet for dental work...not that our vets aren't amazing, but I saw a friend's vet do a routine float on her horse and it was a major production. I really don't in any way want to disparage the vets--certainly their knowledge base is much broader, they just don't float teeth all day long so their technique is not as streamlined.

                I agree though, that the profession of equine dentistry is better off with a licensing requirement.


                • #9
                  I prefer to use vets. An old barn used a horse dentist who would use wood clamps on the horse's lips to make a really, really strong twitch. Ouch!

                  My horses are all pretty fussy so I prefer they are drugged and the vet can do his/her job and not worry about dealing with holding them down at the same time.

                  I have always used vets who specialized in dentistry, not general vets. Most seem to be lameness vets who do chiropractic and teeth. We did use one vet once who was just a general vet, and he would have horses lined up dripping blood... didn't do a good job at all. I've learned my lesson.

                  I just got my guy done for $200, which is a flat rate including travel and service fees. I was pretty impressed with the vet who did it, he was able to tell me that my horse was weak in his left hind, tilted his head right, and had trouble bending left (all so true) just from looking at his teeth.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by dghunter View Post
                    Our dentist is a DVM. He only does dentistry but he does an excellent job. Both of my guys require sedation and it does make me feel a little bit better that he is a vet too.
                    The same here! I like to see specialists for myself, why not my horse.


                    • #11
                      my "dentist" is my vet, but she goes to conferences and seminars on the subject to make sure she is up on everything in that field.
                      There's coffee in that nebula.


                      • #12
                        Thankfully there is a Vet in the practice that I use who specializes in doing teeth.

                        I prefer someone who went to Vet school for X amount of years over someone who bought themselves a Dental kit and declared themselves a Horse Dentist.

                        If it is more expensive, so be...
                        MnToBe Twinkle Star: "Twinkie"

                        Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!


                        • #13
                          I'm not sure what the law in IL is about it, but I use my vet. I asked him once about a dentist and he was so affronted I never brought it up again But, he's also taken extensive specialist classes for it as well. Used to cost $75, now it's more like $125.
                          It's a small world -- unless you gotta walk home.


                          • #14
                            If you have access to a vet who is a good dentist, that's awesome. Unfortunately, some of us don't have that option . The vets around here are bad at teeth so I use an equine dentist. He is fabulous and is not too expensive. He also doesn't use sedation unless absolutely necessary. Of course, the nice thing about having OTTBs is that they are all really good about having their teeth done.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Tegan View Post

                              My horses are all pretty fussy so I prefer they are drugged and the vet can do his/her job and not worry about dealing with holding them down at the same time.

                              Years ago the first time the dentist I now use came to my farm, I was worried because he WASN'T going to sedate the horses--In the group to be done I had a nervous filly that I didn't want traumatized and one very sensitive, head shy horse. I wanted things to go smoothly with no battles or bad experiences.

                              To my amazement, there was no "holding down" or even restraining. Instead the horses stood there in a patient and relaxed--almost trancelike--manner with their heads down while he worked away, even the nervous filly. Can I just say that we adore our dentist

                              Contrast that to having seen vets sedate the horse and then put the head in a harness that ties to an overhead beam. I'm sure it's fine--and I'm sure not all vets do it that way--but if I was going to pick...

                              Just from my own experiences I think there is a huge variability among dental care providers for horses, probably among both vets and dentists. I'm just glad we aren't back in the days where the farriers were doing it.


                              • #16
                                The previous barn I was at ('04 - '07) had a DVM (did strictly dentistry) who would come each spring to do all of the horses (He would usually be on-site for 2-3 days). He had a large horse trailer that was completely tricked out as a dental lab. He would set up near the barn, the horse would be loaded onto the trailer, put in a stanchion, tranq'd and he and his assistants would go to work. He was rather pricey, but given the set up and the more advanced work he was able to do on-site, it seemed reasonable. One year, my mare needed a molar pulled and another tooth had cracked and actually needed a filling, to the tune of around $700. Typical visits ran around $250-$300.

                                After seeing the setup of his rig, and the knowledge he possessed of the equine mouth, I don't think his prices were unreasonable. If anyone needed work done once he had been through our area, our regular vet would perform the services, and he was equally knowledgeable (and much more reasonable). I believe the equine dentist traveled around quite a bit, possibly even to FL over the winter.

                                At current barn, our regular vet (same one who was with us at the last barn - I loff him!) does teeth yearly (or as needed) and I have never had a problem with any of his work. My mare, being a TB, gets checked twice yearly just to make sure everything is good (she grinds her teeth quite a bit and is getting up there in age). The horses get mild sedation, and all of his equipment is electrical (think dremel). He is excellent about attending seminars/training and keeping up on the latest advances in all aspects of equine care (treated mare's fractured navicular bone and brought her back to 100% soundness). I remember seeing my first horse getting her teeth done by the vet (back in the 70's) and it was basically just a big rasp/file. Ouch! Of course, I'm one of those people who needs valium, gas and novocaine just to get my teeth cleaned. HATE the dentist.

                                I definitely agree anyone working on your horse's mouth should be licensed in some manner, be it DVM or otherwise.
                                ~*Friend of bar.ka*~


                                • #17
                                  In Ontario, you need to be a vet to do equine dentistry. Otherwise, you can, and will, be charged for practicing without a license.


                                  • #18
                                    I think its very odd- how many of us would go to our regular doctor and ask them to fill a cavity??
                                    I love my vet and she does do teeth- but my horse dentist is much better. Vet insists on sedating (which my horses don't need), while dentist has no trouble doing it without sedation. We use the same dentist at work that I do for my own horses- if he feels that a horse needs sedation, the owner has to do it- he will not.
                                    Last edited by tabula rashah; Jan. 15, 2010, 11:46 AM. Reason: I can't spell worth a hoot
                                    "As soon as you're born you start dyin'
                                    So you might as well have a good time"


                                    • #19
                                      I use a horse dentist. My vet has floats, but hates to use them. My dentist doesn't tranq the horses, and if they do need to be tranq'ed for some reason, the owner or their vet needs to do it, and he will re-schedule if necessary. The vets that do do teeth around her, I don't care for. Others like the job they do. But like somebody else said, I have 7 horses, it's hard enough to pay $100/head, let alone over $250/head. And my guy has pulled bad teeth, cut off hooks and ramps, and all the horses love him.
                                      \"In all manners of opinion, our adversaries are insane.\" Mark Twain


                                      • #20
                                        A people dentist is still a doctor. Years of medical school and training. After having a equine dentist horribly ruin a horses mouth I'll stick with my vet how specializes teeth.