Equine Dental PracticeTM
© Peter Borgdorff 1984-2012
Click this button if you cannot see the navigation bar on the left. Last update: 10 May 2012.
by Peter Borgdorff - Equine Dentist and President of the National Equine Dental Practitioners
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In view of items in the news, specifically the Weekly Times, we would like to clarify our activities. With overwhelming public support, non-veterinary equine dentists in Australia have in the past 100 years and longer been conducting horse dentistry procedures such as these:
In situations where a horse requires sedation or related care to enable more significant procedures to be professionally and safely conducted by an equine dental practitioner (EDP), we engage veterinarians on behalf of horse owners. All cases which require sedation for larger procedures are done with the patient receiving supplementary veterinary care where necessary. Horse welfare is safeguarded in a number of ways:
Reduced cost ensures owners can spend money on more regular follow-up health care and provide modified diets where required.
our practice only
1 in 25 horses requires sedation for
We contact veterinarians on behalf of our clients to provide such
sedation. Some equine dental practitioners (EDP's) use methods
which may require sedation more frequently. A veterinarian is not
allowed to refuse to
facilitate sedation as horse owners and equine dentists are by law only
able to engage veterinarians for such tasks. Equine dental
practitioners are not seeking to practice veterinary medicine. Their
expertise is confined to oral procedures. Better animal welfare
outcomes will be achieved by the veterinary profession working together
with EDPs to achieve this outcome.
The activity of equine dentistry has been in the domain of non-veterinary EDP's for a long time, meaning we have the right to practice in that capacity. Precedents in law in the USA have also shown that Veterinary Boards and their regulations cannot remove this right. That situation is similar under Australian Law.
In the past educational organisations and veterinary associations have failed to properly address the needs of the horse. This is confirmed by this frank comment made to veterinarians by a respected veterinary educator:
In contrast, equine dentists have for many years now assumed the responsibility for dental and dental-related welfare of the horse.
Recently Australia adopted a nationally accredited
IV in Equine Dentistry. This constitutes basic equine dentistry competencies and does
not cover most of the procedures above. This means that the
skills being practiced by most equine dentists around the world are
still not able to be achieved with nationally
Australia. The educational competencies for a Diploma in
Dentistry were drafted by AgriFoodSkills in close consultation with the
National Reference Group which includes equine dentists from four industry
groups (NEDP, AAED, EDAA, WWED) and Australian Veterinary
(AVA) representatives. Yet those same AVA representatives now
the Diploma they have helped draft.
The Diploma competencies are also opposed by
unaware of the scope of care already provided by equine dentists in
Australia. The reason for this appears to be a campaign of
misinformation by the AVA and active lobbying by a small number of
equine dental veterinarians who have developed themselves as
peer-proclaimed experts and who gain significant revenue from their
The Frawley report said this:
There is a large and growing number of personnel with the qualifications, training and/or experience in animal health related fields. As a general rule, rural veterinarians regard such personnel as competitors when this need not be the case. (Source: Peter T. Frawley, Review of Rural Veterinary Services 2003.)
that information and the quoted comment by
veterinarian Paddy M. Dixon, the current AVA
President Barry Smyth
serious doubt on the Australian Veterinary Association's credibility by
In recognition of the acknowledged inadequacies of
there are now some private workshops in equine dentistry.
Sadly, these AVA supported courses attempt to cover a vast number of
subjects at 'workshops' in as little as 39 hours. Some quotes
from course proponents:
We contend that horse owners should reject this level
patently inadequate. University education is founded on
theory-based science subjects and to learn the
practical techniques and processes that are required for even a basic
level requires a very substantial amount of time and
effort. Certificate and proposed Diploma training
are estimated to require around 905-995 and 694
hours respectively. (Source: AgriFoodSkills 14 July 2011 Indicative
Hours - Curriculum Mapping Equine Dentistry National Training Standards)
Furthermore, the Furthermore, the over-reliance on sedation instead of horsemanship and the over-reliance on invasive procedures instead of applying staged dental correction processes should be regarded as undesirable from an animal welfare perspective.
In-depth courses to Diploma level have been provided over quite a few years by the Australian Equine Dental Practice with the purpose of enabling successful trainees to practice as certified equine dental practitioners in the field of equine dentistry. These courses are typically 23 weeks in duration for non veterinarians. Particular focus is on the provision of skills that take over where veterinary dental education is inadequate, yet work in collaboration with veterinarians in complex cases to provide the best possible holistic care for our patients. This means that AEDP Certified Equine Dentists who carry out the procedures at the top of this page, broadly carry out what is in the Diploma competencies proposed by stakeholders through AgriFoodSkills. This Diploma qualification provides for a comprehensive equine dentistry related theory subject base in conjunction with extensive practical competencies.
In 2008, the AVA Board issued the following policy statement:
Such conduct by the Australian Veterinary
to incitement to anti-competitive conduct. Although we may
understanding for an association of veterinarians (the AVA is a 'trade
all) trying to encourage its members to compete in the marketplace, we
such information grossly misleading and possibly unlawful.
owners in Australia should have the right to choose.
The AVA President also expressed an anti-competitive stance to the Weekly Times recently. It reports:
"AVA president Barry Smyth said horse dentists should be restricted to manually filing horses' teeth for the sake of animal welfare. Anything more complicated than that should be left to the veterinarian..... "
|New South Wales||Hon Kristina Hodgkinson|
|Victoria||Hon Peter Walsh|
|Queensland||Hon John McVeigh|
|Western Australia||Hon Terry Redman|
|Norhtern Territory||Hon Konstantine Vatskalis|
|A.C.T.||Hon Katy Gallagher|
|Tasmania||Hon Brian Green|
|South Australia||Hon Gail Gago|
|Federal||Hon Jo Ludwigfirstname.lastname@example.org|
Into Position of Pulp Chamber (no.6) in the Second Premolars.
Rachel McGarian (BSc Hons Equine Dental Science) of the United Kingdom completed a dissertation in 2010 named: "Investigation Into the Different Characteristics of the Number 6 Pulp Chamber of Equine Mandibular Second Premolar Teeth, in Relation to Age, Breed and Gender."
This study investigated four measurements; the width of the number 6 pulp chamber, the distance from the rostral aspect of the tooth to the number 6 pulp chamber, the distance from the occlusal surface of the tooth to the number 6 pulp chamber and the distance from the rostral corner of the tooth to the number 6 pulp chamber in mandibular second premolar teeth, in relation to age, breed and gender. The evidence from this study provides the equine dental industry with vital information which could act as a guideline when bit comfort areas (termed by some as bit seats) are being installed, as to how much tooth can be removed before exposing vital pulp in equines of different age, breeds and gender.
The study found significant differences in the relationship between age and the distance from the rostral aspect of the tooth to the number 6 pulp chamber in the 306 and 406 teeth, and between age and the distance from the occlusal surface of the tooth to the number 6 pulp chamber in the 406 teeth. (P<0.001). The results found that breed and gender did not present any significant values for any of the four measurements. The study concluded that the second mandibular premolars can be reduced by an average of 6.1mm when installing bit seats, before exposing vital pulp. This result contradicts the original guideline of 10mm (Becker, 1962).
The results from this study provide equine dental practitioners with new scientific evidence that they can apply in practice and in turn improve the welfare of many equines.
Footnote: Rachel McGarian was visiting Australia for the purpose of conducting further research and other activities. The Australian Equine Dental Practice was sponsoring her research. Download a PDF of Rachel McGarian's dissertation here (2.9MB)
The filing of molar teeth needs to be rendered with care in order to preserve the horse's ability to chew. These grinding surfaces, also known as tables, are shown here and you can enlarge them by clicking on them:
It is the policy of affiliates of the Australian Equine Dental Practice not to break the law by supplying or administering 'supply restricted' drugs to your horse. Rarely does a horse need to be sedated due to experienced handling and limited treatment duration. However, if this is necessary an equine veterinary surgeon can be arranged on your behalf. If you want to report unlawful veterinary drug supply or use in Australia click here: email@example.com@firstname.lastname@example.org
The reduction of tooth length with cutting forceps may cause deep tooth or bone fractures. We do not use these forceps, nor do we use dremel type grinders to grind down the first molar teeth. In order to provide bit comfort, the first molars are corrected by filing manually, thus preventing the need for tranquillisers except on infrequent occasions. More information on the Methods page.
More information is now available on this site about training to become an Equine Dentist. Whether you are a Veterinary Surgeon and would like to do a Postgraduate course or whether you are experienced with horses and want to train for a Certificate you will find more information by clicking the Career Choice on the navigation bar on the left. Apply early so you don't miss out on a place.
Training with the Australian Equine Dental Practice has been a stepping stone to a career as an Equine Dentist by a number of people. Where consideration of the horse takes priority and the manner of treatment is widely respected, there are valid grounds to consider this training. We endeavour to teach genuine candidates a caring approach that uses effective methods which respect the natural structure of equine dentition with the aim of correcting abnormal dental conformation. No other persons are accredited by Peter to teach these methods. The word 'academy' or 'school' is not used, because there is no government accreditation for this training. The next training intake is closing soon. Check Career Choice
As equine dentist, I am concerned about a number of issues relating to the drought that I have encountered. These issues can affect the condition and behaviour of your horse(s). These relatively common issues are:
Increasing and more rapidly occurring dental sharpness and associated disorders. This is a result of the increased intake of short-fibred feed. Having less long fibre in their grazing diet as well as the feeding of chaff and pellets increases irregular wear and causes extremely sharp points which in turn affects behaviour due to pain from aggrevation of soft tissue which also reduces masticatory efficiency.
The inability of horses with worn or abnormal dentition to adequately masticate hay that is provided. Horses, especially older ones, often suffer impaction colic due to ingesting large wads of unmasticated feed. (see picture) This inadequate mastication can also occur in horses that have had their teeth over-filed.
Feeding hay that is not appropriate for horses, such as that containing barley grass and other weeds.
Increased intake of broad leaf and other weeds when grazing.
Escalating parasite burdens due to short length grazing pasture and ineffective worming programs. This is especially a concern on agistment properties and those that have no strip-grazing or stock rotation.
The American Journal of the Veterinary Medical Association reported about a study by Drs Traub-Dargatz, Kopral et al. about the US national incidence of and operation risk factors for colic among horses from 1998-1999. It says:"The annual national incidence of colic in the US horse population was estimated to be 4.2 colic events/100 horses per year. Case fatality rate was 11% and 1.4% of colic events resulted in surgery." That colic is suffered by so many horses is a cause for deep concern when one considers the pain and trauma to both horses and owners. The report further states that it is costing the US an amount of AU$205.000.000 per year. Especially in older horses correct dental maintenance and dietary planning can vastly reduce the incidence of colic.
A significant number of calls to this practice are made by people who suspect that their horse's inability to masticate feed properly may have been the cause of a past occurrrence of colic. It is especially important to be aware that a horse with dental problems is unable to grind grass or hay into short fibres and will often swallow long fibred tight packets of feed which may cause bowel obstruction. There is also some concern that horses with decomposing feed lodged in abnormal cravasses between teeth may ingest large bacterial loads which may affect proper digestion and increase the likelihood of colic.
To find out more about Thoroughbred Breeders Australia, click here:
For those of you who scratch their head trying to find good horse information on the Internet, here are some hints. As voluntary editor for the Open Directory Project, the world's largest human edited directory, I recommend it to view information by category. You can also search at the top of each page. Here are some interesting categories from DMOZ Open Directory:
Another very good way of finding information is to use the extensive search features of:
GOOGLE Advanced Search
A great Australian site is the Horse Directory , it has sensible categories with most Australian information you may be searching for. If you were looking some of my equine dentistry information on the Centre for Veterinary Education (Sydney) , it has all been removed as the site has been sanitised to only include items by veterinarians. When will educators take off their blinkers?
Horsedirectory Australia is a very useful site for Australian horse info. You can select your state and choose from many categories. Click the logo:
Dr Geoff Tucker has specialized in equine dentistry for a few years now and, like many of us, he has developed his own techniques. He has said to me many times that he is not in favour of aggressive treatment methods and that we need to respect natural (dental) structures. I quote this from his web site http://www.theequinepractice.com/ :
BELIEFS AND PHILOSOPHIES
Horsemanship is better than drugs and force.
Proper and judicious use of pain medication is indicated in about 1 of every 5 horses, not in every horse.
The use of hand tools and the hand as a mouth speculum is effective in addressing every edge of every tooth.
Every edge of every tooth must be made smooth to achieve comfort for the horse
Floating should be done every 6 months in horses between 5 and 25 years of age to be preventive in bit issues. On occasion some horses need it more often. Some, due to limited use or if they are over 25 years old only need an annual float.
Horses between 2 ½ and 5 years of age should be floated every 3 to 6 months depending on their training schedules. The teeth are softer and become sharp more quickly plus 24 baby "caps" are shed during this time and are replaced by sharp permanent teeth.
Good dentistry has been practiced for generations. While some changes are good, not all changes in technique or technology benefit the horse. The philosophy here is simple. If the change helps the horse, it is made. If it only helps the floater, the change is not made.
To visit Geoff Tucker's site click on the image:
there are more than 1.2 million
horses used for racing, equestrian sports, and recreation and there is
a large breeding industry. The horse industry is worth more than $15
billion a year.
The Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) offers support for equine research and development projects across Australia, with many projects being undertaken into subjects such as infectious diseases, reproduction, nutrition, injuries, drug development and lameness.
To find research reports and more, click here and follow the link 'horses':
"You and Your New Horse"
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