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Vet's Exam Success Points Way To Higher Equine Dental Standards

The first and only British veterinary surgeon to pass the prestigious Equine Dental Technicians (EDT) examination has highlighted a growing problem among horse owners of engaging the services of " cowboy" equine dental technicians who are not properly qualified.

Christopher Pearce, a partner in the five-vet Barn Equine Surgery, in Three Legged Cross, Wimborne, Dorset, has passed the EDT examination, recently set up and run jointly by the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) and the British Association of Equine Dental Technicians (BAEDT). He is the only vet in the UK to have passed the exam and be admitted to membership of the BAEDT.

The examination was set up to promote the highest standards in equine dentistry, following increasing concerns about the emergence of so-called "equine dentists" - lay people who rasp horses' teeth for a living - but who often have received only minimal training or none at all. Some of these equine dental technicians have received training by a self-regulating organisation in the USA, which is not recognised in the UK.

Although vets have traditionally rasped the teeth of horses while visiting clients for other purposes, recent advances in equipment and techniques, together with increased awareness among horse owners about the importance of dental health, has resulted in the emergence of these so-called equine dentists.

However, whilst it is legal for dental technicians to undertake certain basic treatments, they are not allowed to sedate horses with pain killers or to prescribe antibiotics, which are often needed as part of dental treatment. Equine vet practices also have access to full diagnostic and surgical facilities where needed.

While BEVA has been organising training courses on equine dentistry for vets for some time, it is only the formation of BAEDT two years ago that has resulted in the new examination, whose main purpose is to ensure common minimum standards and regulate equine dental technicians.

The examination's aim is to set a very high standard of equine dentistry in the UK. Out of 17 who sat the most recent examination in September, only five were successful and, of the 12 that failed, one was an examiner for the self-regulating US equine dental training school.

Chris Pearce commented: " My main reason for sitting this examination was to prove that, as a vet, I was as capable as anyone of performing high quality equine dentistry. This not only makes good sense, but also saves our clients money if we can undertake any necessary dentistry while we are visiting their horses for routine examinations or to diagnose any other ailments. I hope that many other equine vets will become members of the BAEDT."

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