Firstly I will try to clarify some of the confusion with which horse owners are constantly faced regarding "who" is "who" in Equine Dentistry.
In the UK there is no legal requirement for anyone to undertake any form of training in order to perform certain dental proceedures on horses. Therefore, anyone can go out into the horse community with minimal equipment and set up as an "Equine Dentist". Shocking....but very true! This, coupled with the fact that there are very few thorough and comprehensive training courses avilable on the subject in this country (either to the veterinary profession....or to anyone else interested) makes it more attractive for people to find a "shortcut" into the.... profession (I use that term loosely, as equine dentistry is still a "lay profession").
So, with no requirement to train and limited training available how do you the horse owner, know who is who when it comes to choosing who should carry out treatment on your horse. Do you, like some, opt for the cheapest ? Or do you go for the most local? Or do you go for those who are listed on an Approved Professional Association website?.....Or do you not bother with a specialist and get your veterinary Surgeon to do it? in the belief that they must have covered horse dentistry in great depth on their Veterinary degree course. (I''m sure you have heard the saying "All that glitters is not gold"....how true it is here)
Well, I have an advantage here somewhat. I realised when i first became interested in Equine dentistry that if i wanted to do it professionally or "PROPERLY" that i would have to look further afield than the Uk. I went on a TWO DAY course which was all that was being offered at that time (1999) and run by the veterinary profession (primarily for their members). On completing the course, I was so disheartened that that was all there was....Even in the present day, the majority of the Veterinary Profession, learn Equine Dentistry skills via a series of short (2days) courses. That is equally as shocking.
Veterinary surgeons are "Qualified" in Equine dentistry in the same guise as a GP is in human dentistry, i.e. it was covered as part of the sylabus of a wider ranging Qualification. I am sure you will agree that if you had a dental problem yourself, or your children did, you wouldn''t go to your GP to see about it......would you? So, for your horses dental needs, would not the best idea be to seek advice from a true Equine Dental Specialist? By this I mean someone who has amassed several years of specialist knowledge and experience in dealing specifically with dental problems in horses, and someone who posesses a complete range of specialist equipment and instrumentation. Someone who has had their knowledge, skill and ability to use such equipment specifically tested, examined and approved by recognised, specialist bodies.
If you look at the list of "qualified" practitioners at www.baedt.com or www.wwaed.org you will see that there are some veterinary surgeons listed who have had their skills and knowledge tested (Note: there are very few in the North of England). So, if you are going to opt for a vet, then might it not be the wisest choice (for your horse''s sake) to choose from those vets who have truely "specialised" and have gone to the extent of bothering to gain a further qualification in the specialised area of equine dentistry? Might it be the case that other vets who offer equine dental services have not actually sat or passed any post graduate dentistry specific exams or gained any further specialist "qualifications" on the subject, but have merely just attended short courses on which their standard of workmanship was never individually tested?
Now comes the even more confusing part. You decide to choose a "equine dentist", "horse dentist" or EDT. Who do you choose? Is everyone really who they say they are? Are they really as expert as they would have you believe? Who is "qualified"? What does "approved" mean?
The ONLY qualifications existing and recognised in the UK, currently, are the BEVA /BVDA exam and the WWAED exam. So, if a practitioner has not passed either of the above, they are NOT qualified. If they are qualified they will be listed and will be eligible for registration with a professional asociation. Even sudents who have obtained a BSc hons degree in Equine Dental Science from Hartpury College, are not "qualified" until they have passed the BEVA exam after obtaining their degree.
If someone says they are "AMERICAN TRAINED" or "UK TRAINED", it does not mean that they have had their skills and knowledge of subject examined, asessed, or approved by any recognised body. It just means that they MAY (some practitioners say they have attended training courses when they have in fact received NO formal training) have attended a training course(s). The training course itself may not necessarily be an "approved course". Attendace on a training course does not "QUALIFY" the individual.
Some practitioners are confusing clients by claiming to be "NFU approved". The NFU are an Insurance company. The NFU do NOT approve and are not in a position to approve equine dental practitioners. They may offer Insurance (only public liability type policies) to equine dental practitioners, but there is a very high probability that this wont include any form of "medical malpractice" insurance, a situation which is of little value to the horse owner who wishes to claim for poor or inadequate treatment of their animal.
The main issue here is that of STANDARD or QUALITY of treatment.
There is a "Standard" of treatment, e.g. what is considered to be thorough and adequate and proper for the Equine Dentistry Industry and that standard is the one which is required by a practitioner to pass either of the two above exams. In the exam, if a horse is not fully and thoroughly treated to this standard, the practitioner is deemed to not fully understand the principles involved or not be considered skilled enough to effect full and proper treatment for that particular animal or subsequent animals in the same condition. If a practitioner has not passed,or attempted to pass those exams, how can they be aware of the standard of treatment required for horses.
Modern Equine Dentistry involves far much more than simply "rasping off the sharp edges". There are a vast number of practitioners out there who have been practicing for many years who are not treating horses to modern standards and are quite simply, "behind the times". I am frequently asked to examine animals which have recently been "treated" to discover that they still have a large number of dental problems which have not been adequately addressed. The sad and alarming consequence of this situation is that a large number of these horses are labelled as "Bad", "naughty" or "problem horses" because they are still behaving in certain ways or showing signs of resistance to training and their owners are of the misconcieved belief that such behaviour "cannot be due to its teeth because I''ve had them done" when a lot of the time, they have not been done thoroughly enough and the original problems remain.....or sometimes made worse. This may also may mean that the owner has done the good thing and had them "done" and have paid money for a service which has been carried out inadequately.
All Equine Dental practitioners, both veterinary and non-veterinary, should be working to the same standard and providing consistant treatment to all their equine patients......but.......sadly, they are not.
There are now a handfull of equine dental "schools" in the USA. I attended the Worldwide Academy of Equine Dentistry in Idaho and trained under the world renowned Principle Master Equine Dentist Dale Jeffery and several other Masters and leading Equine Veterinarians....one of whom is, as well as being a vet, a master Equine Dentist. The Academy is a purpose built learning establishment with excellent classrooom (housing one of the worlds largest horse skull collections) and wet lab (practical work area) facilities and full surgical and radiography (x-ray) facilities. Training is undertaken via two week courses which are offered every two months throughout the year.
Ok ..WOW!...only two weeks..you may say!
However.... (and this is one of the most important points I am trying to convey)......the training courses are structured to provide on going training and encourage learning and skill development through a continual professional development programme. A student completing ONLY a two week course will learn only theoretical knowledge and BASIC practical skills. In order to learn more advanced proceedeures they must return for more training and to be considered for the first level of examination of competance (become "certified") they must have attended a minimum of THREE (usually more)two week long courses and have attended a compulsary head and neck anatomy course.
The certification exam (which holds no official recognition here in the UK...but which is nevertheless held in higher esteem by those who hold it than the "British qualification") takes place over a two week period with the candidate being continually assessed on several horses, many of which require very advanced forms of treatment. The assessors are several Master dentists, including Veterinarians and human dental surgeons. Once Certified, students are then invited to obtain higher levels of achievement (advanced Certification and Mastership) by attending further courses and advanced courses and accumulating the required number of hours of study including teaching,instructing and lecturing to fellow students at lower levels. Advanced certification also requires the production of a thesis on a chosen specific area of Equine Dentistry.
So, in my personal opinion, an exception to the above situation regarding who is qualified or not, would be where a practitioner was "CERTIFIED" through the Worldwide Academy of Equine Dentistry in Idaho as the requirements of certification with this establishment are equal to, if not greater than those for the BEVA exam.....but remember....Certification here is not the same as having merely attended a few times. So, if a practitioner is Certified through the academy (and can prove it by production of a certifcate stating so) but has not obtained the BEVA exam, I would be happy that they will produce an equal or higher standard of treatment. ....Although they will still not be "qualified" here in the There are several Certified practitioners and very few Advanced Certified Academy students. If you wish to verify a practitioner with this establishment, simply call the academy or contact them via their website and they will give details of the practitioners attendance and level of training.
This is where YOU should beware. Many people claim to be "Fully trained in the USA",when in fact they have only attended basic courses and not returned to progress or had any form of assessement or examination.
How do you find out who has had full training???
Simple...You ask to see certificates of attendance (one is given for each and every two week block attendance.....at ALL levels) and all students should be able to produce them on request. If you dont ask to see them,they wont bother to obtain them (cheaper that way!....each block of training costs THOUSANDS of pounds). I have retained ALL certificates of attendances on training courses and ALL relavent "Qualification" certificates along with all relavent Insurance certificates (N.B. If a practitioner does not hold the relavent Qualifications or trainin background, they may not be able to obtain the necessary Insurance to practice) etc, etc,. Beware of people who cannot, or who are unwilling to provide these proofs.
There are a number of training courses being offered in the UK. The only one providing FULL and COMPREHENSIVE trainng is the BSc Hons degree offered by Hartpury College. This is a relatively new training option and is a three year course and as much of the course is theory related, many of the students are required to undertake an "apprentice" type period of training with a BEVA Qualified Equine Dental Technician to perfect the required "on the job" practical skills involved. Even when sucessfully obtaining the degree, students are still required to pass the seperate BEVA / BVDA exam to be classed as an "Qualified" equine Dental Technician.
There are other individuals and organisations or "equine dental colleges" offering training. These are not comprehensive courses.....I used to teach on such courses so I am well aware of the course content. The instructors on the courses may well not be "qualified" EDT''s so, once again, the standard of treatment may be in question.
Currently, there is much adieu in the politics of Equine Dentistry. Whilst there is support for the "Dedicated and Professional" equine dental Technician from some areas of the Veterinary Profession, there is also opposition and "competition" from such sources...particularly over which acts of Dentistry may be performed by who. There is pressure being placed on the "powers that be", from both sides (EDT''s & Vets) for a reform in the current legal status of certain Equine Dental procedures and treatments. However, sadly, those in position to affect such changes do not see the situation regarding YOUR HORSES and who treats them as IMPORTANT ENOUGH to give enough priority to.
So....what can YOU....the Horse owners do?
Well....actually, you have the power to literally control the whole industry. Fortunately we live in a democracy and you have the freedom of choice in who treats your beloved horses.
By ensuring that whichever "expert" you employ to treat your horses, vet, or non vet, is the most suitable person to do so, you will support dedicated and qualified Equine Dental Technicians. Remember....CHECK PEOPLE OUT. If you insist that your equine Dental care provider is qualified, you will be ensuring that your horse is treated to the same standard as those treated by the dedicated professional people who are serious about their profession. I realise this advice to horse owners will upset some practitioners, but what is there to be upset about? If you are providing a service, you should be an expert. The means are in place for everyone to be working to the same standard and the most important thing of all.......ALL HORSES DESERVE THE BEST CARE.