A Technician’s Focus on Equine Dentistry

Amanda Compton stands next to a horse on which she is performing equine dentistry work.
Amanda Compton talks about equine dentistry and vet techs. Courtesy Amanda Compton

As a young horse owner, I recall reading articles in Horse Care magazine that suggested having a horse’s teeth examined if they were over the age of 15, losing weight or dropping feed when eating. I had a 10-year-old Arabian gelding that was a hard keeper, so my veterinarian suggested we float his teeth. In a parking lot, with no speculum, he used a hand-held rasp to file the enamel edges on the teeth of my unsedated horse. The equine dentistry procedure cost $25 and didn’t solve the problem.

When I was first introduced to equine dentistry over 25 years ago, that method was the norm. The science behind functional dental occlusion (contact) and dental pathology was not widely applied in practice. Most horse owners resorted to “lay dentists.”

I developed an interest in equine dentistry, working with the limited number of veterinarians (and some non-vets) who had the passion, experience and education in the subject. So, I earned my veterinary technology degree and attended equine dentistry conferences in the US, the UK and Europe. I also worked in the Middle East to further my education and skills.

Modern Equine Dentistry

Today’s practice of equine dentistry is more involved than that first floating experience might have led me to believe. The standards of care have shifted away from antiquated methods and equipment. Owners have become more proactive in their horses’ dental health.

Personally, I believe equine dentistry is an aspect of veterinary medicine that licensed professionals with specific training should perform. Lesley Parisi, DVM, said, “The benefits of having a competent, understanding and intellectual professional to coordinate equine dental care are invaluable to our practice. We do not have the time in a general mixed animal practice to dedicate to staying current with the ever-changing equine dental industry. However, our patients deserve the very best.”

Increasingly, practitioners and horse owners recognize the necessity for sedation/analgesia. They realize the efficiency and value of motorized equipment over simple rasps. Evaluation of a horse’s dentition and the use of safer, more precise execution of dental procedures require a modern approach to equine dentistry.

Importance of Partnering With Veterinarians

Early in my career, I realized the importance of teaming with veterinarians to provide the best possible dental care. As an LVT, I am adept in performing patient physicals, recognizing abnormalities, monitoring anesthesia/sedation and conveying any concerns I have with the presiding veterinarian. We communicate openly in order to take into consideration any medical issues the patient might have. We can combine our knowledge for the best interest of the horse and the owner.

A veterinarian I routinely work with commented, “Amanda has been performing dentistry for me for several years. Our typical routine starts with my performing a brief physical examination of the horse before administering sedation. Amanda is great about talking through a tour of the mouth with the owners. They love seeing and learning from her! When she finds any abnormalities, she discusses them with me, allowing me to determine the best course of action with the horse’s owner.

“Her skills and knowledge as both an equine dental technician as well as a licensed veterinary technician is most appreciated. We are both involved and invested in providing the best dental care for my clients’ horses!” —Dr. Maureen Kelleher, DVM, CVA, DACVS.

Amanda Compton, EDT/LVT/RVT, is a Virginia Board of Veterinary Medicine-licensed veterinary technician and a registered equine dental technician.

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