Australian Equine Dental PracticeTM
Peter Borgdorff 1984-2018

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by Peter Borgdorff - Equine Dentist

Equine Dentistry Courses

The second course of 2018 commences with distance education on 1 October 2018. Training brochure download: Equine Dental Training Brochure 2018b

When you have read the training brochure and you are interested in applying, please contact Peter Borgdorff by E-mail peter(at) or call +61(0)414 566 789 before the closing date.  

Equine Dentistry in Australia

Since 2006 I have assisted Agrifoods as a member of National Reference Group on behalf of the National Equine Dental Practitioners Inc (a registered association of equine dentists whose members include veterinarians) with the preparation of a new, nationally accredited Diploma of Equine Dentistry.  If you are a horse owner or veterinarian here are some facts about the proposed Diploma of Equine Dentistry.  Many properly informed veterinarians strongly support the work of our members, work with us regularly and do not engage in anti-competitive behaviour.  However, the actions of a few members within the AVA may seriously impact the horse and the horse-owning community. Read more here: Anti-competitive effect on equine dentists and cost impact on consumers

Clarification of Equine Dentistry Activities

In view of items in the news, specifically the Weekly Times, we would like to clarify our activities of equine dentists.  With overwhelming public support, non veterinary equine dentists in Australia have in the past 100 years or more been conducting lawful horse dentistry procedures such as these: 

  • Routine and preventative maintenance of equine dentition by filing
  • Identifying and preventing disease of periodontal structures (structures that support the teeth)
  • Removing small teeth and wolf teeth
  • Removing deciduous incisors and molars (caps) when indicated
  • Dealing with dental fracture
  • Removing diseased teeth
  • Effecting major bite adjustments of the incisors and molars in stages
  • Removing feed from pockets between teeth
  • Treating lacerations of lips and cheeks
  • Treating diastemata and making remedial dental corrections
  • Providing riders and drivers with bit and tack advice
  • Advising client on feeding methods and nutrition
  • Providing reports and referrals to veterinarians
  • Assisting veterinarians at their request with surgical procedures

PB Crouch

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:

  • Standing sedation is almost always the preferred method over general anaesthetic.
  • Efficient work methods and the comprehensive equipment of equine dentists reduce sedation duration.
  • Risks of post-procedural complications such as colic from the effects of lengthy sedation are minimised.
  • Reduced cost ensures owners can spend money on more regular follow-up health care and provide modified diets where required.

In our practice only 1 in 25 horses requires sedation for routine treatment.  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 Right to Practice

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:

Equine dentistry is a very important but until recently rather neglected area of equine practice, with many horses suffering from undiagnosed, painful dental disorders. (Source: Prof Paddy M. Dixon MVB, Easter Bush, Scotland, 2004)

In contrast, equine dentists have for many years now assumed the responsibility for dental and dental-related welfare of the horse.   

Competence in Equine Dentistry

Recently Australia adopted a nationally accredited Certificate 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 accredited training in Australia.  The educational competencies for a Diploma in Equine 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 Association (AVA) representatives.  Yet those same AVA representatives now oppose the Diploma they have helped draft.

The Diploma competencies are also opposed by regulators who appear 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 activities.  

New graduate veterinarians are being pushed by their new employers into performing procedures for which we argue they are not adequately trained.  A number of past cases display overconfidence in their skills or evidence of being out of their depth.  Similar incidents are being reported with more senior veterinarians who proclaim themselves to be masters of the art and science of equine dentistry.

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.)

For many years, veterinarians have acknowledged they are not trained or insufficiently trained in equine dentistry at university, and do not have the practical skills or have a lack of interest or time.  Indeed many vets refer major dental corrections and (non-surgical) permanent tooth extractions to equine dental practitioners (EDP's).  In turn, the EDP's engage these veterinarians for attendance to related systemic issues, sedation, analgesics and antibiotic and other therapies.  We consider this ensures the best outcome for the animals.

Equine dentists do not, nor do they seek, the ability to conduct any procedures other than those listed at the top of this page and a limited number of other procedures including pulp capping.  The Centre for Veterinary Education (CVE) on their web site, and Oliver Liyou in E-mails have tried to gather support for opposition to the Diploma by saying equine dentists were seeking to do sinus surgery and have the use of anti-inflammatories, antibiotics and sedatives.  Nothing like that is contained in the Diploma competencies and only sedatives for routine work was ever discussed to be included!

This is an excerpt of North American university responses to an equine dentistry survey.  Comments from the author and advice from veterinarians to us confirm a similar situation in Australia

  • 81% of veterinary colleges dedicated less than 3 lecture hours during the entire veterinary course on equine dentistry
  • 26% of veterinary colleges dedicated less than 1 laboratory hour on equine dentistry; 55% dedicated less than 3 lab hours;
(Source: Compendium on Continuing Education for the Practicing Veterinarian, Michale Q. Lowder, University of Athens Georgia USA May 1997)

Given that information and the quoted comment by veterinarian Paddy M. Dixon, the current AVA President Barry Smyth threw serious doubt on the Australian Veterinary Association's credibility by saying in 2006:

Equine dentistry has always been an integral part of veterinary medicine and surgery. It requires specialised knowledge to diagnose and treat dental problems. (Source:

Post-University Clinics

In recognition of the acknowledged inadequacies of university education, 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:

  • EVDS is absolutely dedicated to ensure that every vet who attends our five day workshop returns to their practice confident and competent to go out and perform quality routine dentistry and: (Source: EVDS Website, Dr Oliver Liyou, Introduction to Equine Dentistry brochure, 8-12 March 2011, 4 1/2 day course.)
  • EVDS has used equine dentistry to grow from a solo equine practice in January 2009 to a three-vet equine practice in September 2009! (Source: EVDS Website, Dr Oliver Liyou, Introduction to Equine Dentistry brochure, 8-12 March 2011, 4 1/2 day course.)
  • This intensive five day workshop includes a mixture of lectures and practical sessions covering all aspects of modern equine dentistry including: Economics of equine dentistry in practice, evolution, development and ageing, geriatric dentistry & periodontal disease, oral tumours, nomenclature and dental charts, dental equipment - hand and power tools, corrective dentistry, extractions, pulp capping, radiology and much,much more ....... (Source:  Brochure of an EVA WA 5 Day Dentistry and Orofacial Surgery Workshop; Monday 7 - Friday 11 February 2011 Murdoch University; a 39 hour course)

We contend that horse owners should reject this level of training as 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 equine dentistry 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.

  • Diploma Qualifications

    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.

    Anti-competitive Conduct

    In 2008, the AVA Board issued the following policy statement:

    All dental procedures on horses and related species should be performed only by registered veterinarians......

    Such conduct by the Australian Veterinary Association amounts to incitement to anti-competitive conduct.  Although we may have some understanding for an association of veterinarians (the AVA is a 'trade union', after all) trying to encourage its members to compete in the marketplace, we deem such information grossly misleading and possibly unlawful.  All horse 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..... "

    Veterinary Conduct

    Some of the work conducted by veterinarians apparently as a consequence of participating in veterinary short courses is questioned by us.  We cannot ask State animal welfare legislation to be used to investigate any incidents because veterinarians are dealt with by their own state Veterinary Boards.  In Vet Board hearings the outcome hinges on expert colleagues who either testify for or against the accused.  Rather than appeal which may result in even higher penalties being applied as well as the huge legal costs by both sides, veterinarians often elect to settle for a minor sanctions.  We consider this a very unsatisfactory system as a recent case in NSW has shown. 

    A veterinarian who was one of the vets involved in the treatment of a horse which subsequently died, testified against a colleague who had facilitated sedation for a procedure on that same horse months earlier, causing the original sedating vet and not the testifying vet to be found guilty on -what we consider- a completely misinterpreted meaning of the NSW Veterinary Regulation.  

    In spite of that, I, together with other members of the National Equine Dental Practitioners Inc (NEDP), are very grateful for the support of dozens of veterinarians. These vets are focussed on collaborating with us to achieve positive outcomes for every horse.  Every horse should be entitled to such high level of care.

    Speak Out About Your Right to Choose for Your Horses and Their Welfare.

  • Our association (NEDP) is committed to national accreditation of the Diploma of Equine Dentistry in Australia>
  • The NEDP is The NEDP is committed to maintaining and enhancing treatment protocols for all equine dental practitioners. 
  • The NEDP is the only organisation which has mandated the continuous watercooling of all motorised instruments that may inflict any heat on the horse's teeth.  
  • The NEDP is the only organisation that has banned radical cutting of teeth with forceps which risk fracturing tooth structures below the gum line.    >

    We predict that the costs of caring for your horses will increase and the level of care will go down in most cases, if training at Diploma level is not formalised by 2012, and even more anti-competive veterinary regulations are pushed through.
      Most members of the professional associations NEDP, EDAA, AAED and WWED, will be prevented from comprehensively practicing equine dentistry.  Look at the effect we think anti-competitive practices will have after 2012: Anti-competitive effect on equine dentists and cost impact on consumers - PDF 235kB     

    How to make yourself heard?  Write to your state primary industries minister and local members.  To give you some inspiration, we have an a letter which a horse owner in WA sent to her state minister as well as to the federal minister and others. You may copy that letter.  Find your local member here.  The E-mail addresses of state and federal ministers are:
    State Name E-mail
    New South Wales Hon Kristina Hodgkinson

    Victoria Hon Peter Walsh

    Queensland Hon John McVeigh

    Western Australia Hon Terry Redman

    Northern Territory Hon Konstantine Vatskalis

    A.C.T. Hon Katy Gallagher

    Tasmania Hon Brian Green

    South Australia Hon Gail Gago

    Federal Hon Jo Ludwig


    CT ScanningResearch 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)

    And also on this page:

    Responsible Dental Treatment

    Incidence of Colic

    Our Policy - Drugs

    Search Links

    Our Policy - Equipment

    Veterinarians and Dentistry

    Equine Dental Practitioners Board Initiative

    Horses and Research

    RSPCA Education

    Drought Related Issues

    Responsible Dental Treatment.

    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:

    upper molar grinding surface

    lower molar grinding surface

    The upper and lower molar tables meet together and are naturally rough to enable the horse to grind the feed into small particles.  They consist of materials of different hardness which cause higher and lower areas.  The objective of correcting molar bite abnormalities is to keep these grinding surfaces as intact as possible.  A horse without molar table roughness cannot grind its feed.  The Australian Equine Dental Practice promotes 'staged treatment'; this means bite abnormalities are corrected over a longer period of time.  This may be the case when a horse is treated for wave mouth or shear bite.

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    Our Policy -Drugs

    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:

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    Our Policy -Equipment.

    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.

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    Equine Dental Practitioners Board to be established.

    The Association of Equine Dental Practitioners (Aust) Inc. has put a structure in place to regulate those who operate as equine dentists. The Equine Dental Practitioners Board is currently being established to issue annual licences and to strictly regulate equine dentists who have to meet educational and practical experience criteria. The Code of Practice clearly defines many standards of horse care and practice management. The administration of sedatives is, and always has been, illegal; the association does not want this legislation to be changed. The use of non-watercooled power tools is prohibited as are excessive molar filing and routine incisor cutting. The EDP Board will also inform the public about its role, in order to direct the public towards licensed equine dentists.

    A regulation under the Veterinary Practice Act 2003 was recently introduced. A last minute public and industry response caused this regulation to be modified. However, it falls short of protecting horses from damage by devices such as industrial grinders which are not continuously water-cooled. There is evidence that as little as 2 minutes grinding may cause irrepairable harm to the tooth by destroying tissue in the pulp cavity. As well as that, the present devices lack tactile feedback and often cause excessive removal of material from the occlusal surfaces.

    Equine Dentistry as a Career - Postgraduate and Diploma Level Training with the AEDP.

    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

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    Drought Related Issues

    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 Incidence of Colic Among Horses.

    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.

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    To find out more about Thoroughbred Breeders Australia, click here:

    Find Horse Information the Easy Way.

    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:

    Health-Animal-Veterinary Medicine-Veterinarians

    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?

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    Horsedirectory Australia is a very useful site for Australian horse info. You can select your state and choose from many categories. Click the logo:


    Veterinarians and Dentistry.

    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 :


    • 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 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:

    Horses and Research.

    In Australia 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. 

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    To find research reports and more, click here and follow the link 'horses':


    The RSPCA "You and Your New Horse" Seminars.

    These seminars which provided comprehensive information on health, nutrition and essential horse care have now been discontinued. We regret this but if you are planning purchasing a first horse or have purchased a horse, we will try to direct any enquiries to other organisations who are able to provide you with information. If you support the reintroduction of these seminars, please E-mail the Director of Education of RSPCA Victoria .

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