Pre-Veterinary Specializations: Equine Dentistry

William Woods Undergraduate

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), there are 41 distinct veterinary specialties, and as a pre-vet biology major preparing to pursue a degree in veterinary medicine, it’s important to know the avenues in which you can take your passion.

Relatively new on the scene of veterinary specialties is Equine Dentistry — which was only approved as a specialty by the American Veterinary Medical Foundation in 2014.

This specialty plays an invaluable role because, as many veterinarians and experts in animal medicine will agree, the health of your horse’s teeth can have a profound impact on the animal’s overall health.

“If there is pain or lack of proper balance in the mouth, it will always show up elsewhere in the body. When the teeth are balanced, our work is not only more successful but quicker and easier for us and the horse,” said Kelley Mills of Willow Creek Equine Rehabilitation Center in an Equine Wellness Magazine article. “I believe the imbalanced mouth is a mirror of the imbalanced horse. Once the teeth are addressed the horse is then able to progress with balance in movement as well as health.”

In order to be fully effective in their practice, veterinary dentists must have extensive knowledge of anatomy, anesthesiology, physiology, pathology, neurology, pharmacology, medicine, radiology, and surgery, all of which they will learn through their graduate studies.

Key job responsibilities for veterinary dentists include:

  • Examination and cleaning teeth of animals
  • Adjustments, fillings and tooth extraction
  • Oral surgery
  • Treating periodontist disease in animals
  • And more

Employment opportunities for those specifically in the veterinary dentist specialty are typically found in the private sector, meaning that the salary base for veterinary dentists tend to be among the highest among veterinary disciplines. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median annual salary for veterinarians is $88,770, and the top ten percent of all veterinarians earn more than $161,070 each year. Board-certified veterinary dentists typically approach the top tier of salary, especially those working in metropolitan areas where the cost of living is higher.

William Woods biology students can pursue a pre-vet concentration — taking courses in microbiology, biochemistry, equine anatomy and physiology, veterinary medicine and reproduction, and more — as they prepare for a career in equine dentistry or other veterinary medicine specializations.

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