NFED Equine Health & Welfare

Equine Dentistry in the UK
Chris Pearce BVSc CertEM(IntMed) BAEDT MRCVS

Routine care of your horse’s teeth is without doubt one of the most important aspects of your horse’s health. It can lead to improved eating efficiency, improved performance, longevity and prevention of dental and oral disease. With advances in general horse care by owners and improved veterinary care our horses are now living longer more healthy lives, and dental maintenance is an integral and essential part of this.

Who should perform the dentistry?

Over the past 10 years the equine dentistry industry has undergone of a revolution of knowledge, equipment and techniques, a revolution which is still advancing today. There are numerous organisations worldwide dedicated to equine dentistry with ongoing research being performed at University Veterinary Schools here and abroad, and an ever increasing number of equine dental professionals, both veterinary and non-veterinary working in the industry. This increase in knowledge, techniques and personnel is not without problems however as standards vary widely, much information still requires properly conducted research to prove or disprove theories, and it can be difficult for horse-owners to know how to obtain the best advice, or who is properly qualified to be attending to their horse’s teeth.

Many horse owners are confused who is legally qualified to perform dentistry on horses, and even then there is confusion over exactly which procedures are legal for them to perform. Veterinary surgeons through their training and qualifications are legally permitted to perform any diagnosis or treatment on animals, and most dental procedures fall under the category of ‘Acts of Veterinary Surgery’, i.e. procedures which only a veterinary surgeon may legally perform.

Rasping horse’s teeth using hand instruments is not however classified as an ‘Act of Veterinary Surgery’ and therefore currently in the UK there is no law stating that the rasping of horse’s teeth using hand instruments requires any formal training or qualification and this has led to many lay persons working as self-titled ‘equine dentists’. This term should not be used when describing lay persons performing horse dentistry and anyone using the term should be viewed with caution as it may suggest a higher level of qualification than actually exists (often none). A human dentist has a 5 year university degree similar to a doctor – most ‘equine dentists’ have no formally recognised qualifications at all. The term Equine Dental Technician (EDT) is far preferable, and has been adopted by responsible professional lay persons performing equine dentistry.

Who is properly qualified?

Any procedure other than rasping teeth with hand instruments is classified as an Act of Veterinary Surgery. Since 2001 it has been suggested that an ‘Exemption Order’ be passed which would allow certain minor procedures to be ‘exempted’ from the Veterinary Surgeons Act to allow them to be performed by properly trained Equine Dental Technicians as well as vets. The Department of Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) were consulted, and proposals have been made to allow this, however as yet no such law has been passed. DEFRA and RCVS also examined the suitability of training organisations interested in providing equine dental training to lay persons and they formally recognised two groups – the British Association of Equine Dental Technicians (BAEDT) and the World Wide Association of Equine Dentistry (WWAED). These associations have demonstrated that they have a creditable examination and training structure and are committed to conducting themselves in a responsible and professional manner, and have been formally accredited (the BAEDT is the only association recommended by BEVA).

What procedures are EDT’s permitted to perform?

The current proposals classify equine dental procedures into 3 categories:
Category 1 procedures are those which may be performed by any lay person without any training or qualification. They are:

  • Rasping of sharp enamel points using hand instruments only
  • Removal of small overgrowths (less than 4mm)
  • Removal of calculus (tartar) e.g. from canine teeth
  • Removal of loose deciduous caps (‘baby’ teeth)
  • Rounding or ‘profiling’ of the front aspect of the 1st cheek tooth (previously termed ‘bit seat shaping’)

Category 2 procedures are those procedures which are likely to become ‘exempted’ from the Veterinary Surgeons Act and which may be performed (ONLY) by members of the above associations, i.e. BAEDT or WWAED. They are:

  • Examination, evaluation and recording of dental abnormalities;
  • The removal of loose teeth or dental fragments with no periodontal attachments (i.e. very loose teeth)
  • The removal of erupted, non-displaced wolf teeth in the upper or lower jaw under direct and continuous veterinary supervision;
  • Palliative rasping of fractured and adjacent teeth; and
  • The use of motorised dental instruments where these are used to reduce overgrowths and remove sharp enamel points only, in horses sedated appropriately.

Category 3 Procedures are those procedures which are legally strictly to be performed by a veterinary surgeon only, and will not be exempted in the future. These include anything not listed above but the following are some examples:

  • Extraction of diseased teeth using instruments (unless very loose)
  • Widening of spaces between teeth (diastema widening)
  • ‘Blind’ wolf tooth extraction
  • Restorative dentistry e.g. ‘fillings’
  • Endodontics e.g. root canal ‘fillings’
  • Any surgery except normal wolf tooth removal e.g surgical dental extraction, sinus trephination.

The ‘Exemption Order’ has not yet been passed, and so strictly there is no legal mandate for any person other than a veterinary surgeon to perform any procedure other that Category 1 listed above, however members of the above-mentioned two associations are subject to a legal ‘blind eye’ for Category 2 procedures, as it is expected that legislation will be forthcoming.


Lay persons responsibly performing equine dentistry in the UK refer to themselves as Equine Dental Technicians (EDT’s), not the misleading term ‘equine dentists’.

It is illegal, and is likely to remain illegal for the foreseeable future for any lay person not being a member of the BAEDT or WWAED to perform any procedure other that in Category 1 (above), irrespective of any other training either here or in the USA.

There are other groups claiming specialism in equine dentistry, and charging for training individuals in dental techniques, however at present and for the foreseeable future these individuals, if they are not current and active members of BAEDT or WWAED may only perform and train others in Category 1 procedures.

There is a list of suitably qualified individuals for Category 1 and 2 work at

Further information can also be found at (follow link to veterinary surgeons/additional advice/working with EDTs).

This article has been kindly provided by Chris Pearce BVSc CertEM(IntMed) BAEDT MRCVS

Chris Pearce is a partner at The Barn Equine Surgery in Wimborne, Dorset.

In 2001 Chris became the first vet to pass the BEVA*/BVDA* equine dentistry examination for equine dental technicians, becoming a member of the British Association of Equine Dental Technicians (BAEDT). Chris was then invited to examine for the same examination in 2003. Since then Chris has been lecturing and examining in equine dentistry both here and in the USA at many courses and examinations every year.

Chris is currently chairman of the BEVA Dental Working Party, a sub-committee responsible for equine dentistry political and educational policy in the UK, and BEVA Council Member and representative for equine dentistry.
Chris spends 80-100% of his working time performing equine dentistry both first opinion and referral work from other vets and dental technicians.

*BEVA British Equine Veterinary Association
*BVDA British Veterinary Dental Association

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