Become an Equine Dental Technician: Education and Career Roadmap
Research the requirements to become an equine dental technician. Learn about the job duties and read the step-by-step process to start a career in veterinary technology.
Do I Want to Be an Equine Dental Technician?
Veterinary technicians working mainly with horses may provide vets with assistance during oral surgeries, dental procedures and routine examinations. They may also conduct laboratory tests, give animals medication, take animal x-rays, provide animals with basic medical treatments and instruct owners on animal home-care procedures. Safety precautions must be taken when dealing with large animals who may be frightened or in pain.
Some states allow only licensed veterinarians to perform dental procedures on horses, whereas other states allow veterinary technicians who have completed an associate's degree to perform these duties under the supervision of a licensed vet. Currently, veterinary technicians must be licensed in nearly all states. Optional certifications are also available.
The following table provides further information about becoming an equine dental veterinary technician:
|Degree Level||Associate degree*|
|Degree Field||Veterinary technology*|
|Licensure and/or Certification||State veterinary technician license required; industry certification optional*|
|Experience||Experience required varies**|
|Key Skills||Familiar with horses, knowledge of equine medical care procedures, comfortable working with large animals, sympathetic to animal needs, able to communicate with coworkers and capable of paying attention to detail*|
|Technical Skills||Knowledge of imaging equipment (x-ray machines), capable of using laboratory equipment and familiar with surgical tools*|
|Additional Requirements||Possess physical strength to handle large animals, capable of fine-hand manipulation and comfortable working around-the-clock, as needed*|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Job postings in September 2012
Step 1: Earn Veterinary Technology Degree
There are both associate and bachelor's degree programs in veterinary technology, but most states only require technicians to complete associate degree programs. Students will find that there are more equine science degree programs at the bachelor's degree level, but veterinary technicians aren't required to complete the higher degree programs.
Veterinary technology programs focus on taking care of small animals, although some programs do include courses about large animals, such as horses. Common courses in these programs may discuss animal anatomy and physiology, anesthesia, parasitology, surgical nursing procedures, x-ray imaging, animal nutrition, dentistry and medical terminology. Students must complete clinical rotations at designated medical locations, including emergency veterinary hospitals and private veterinarian offices.
- Get experience working with horses. Students can choose to focus some of their clinical studies on larger animals, including horses. Colleges may also be able to help students find volunteer and internship positions with veterinarians who specialize in equine care.
Step 2: Become a Licensed Technician
Procedures for becoming a state licensed or certified veterinary technician vary, but most states require applicants to complete accredited veterinary technology training programs and pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE), per the BLS. The VTNE is offered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB). Questions on the exam cover topics related to surgical preparation, pharmacology, dentistry, nursing, anesthesia, laboratory procedures and diagnostic imaging.
Some states may require license applicants to take additional exams, although several states only require applicants to pass the VTNE. Other licensing requirements may include completing paperwork, submitting fees and proving citizenship. As the laws about equine dentistry change, professionals may have to obtain equine dentistry technician licenses or certifications, if mandated by state law.
Step 3: Gain Equine Dentistry Technician Training
After becoming a licensed veterinary technician, professionals can pursue equine dentistry technician training. Technically, licensed technicians do have some training in general animal dentistry, so workers could become equine dentistry technicians without additional training. Some employers may prefer to hire veterinary technicians who have completed additional coursework in equine sciences and dentistry.
There are some universities and equine dental associations that offer training programs to veterinary technicians. Students learn about horse teeth terminology, dental anatomy, teeth growth rates, dental abnormalities, oral examination techniques, dental equipment, nutritional disorders, bacteria and horse behavior. Most programs also provide training with teeth extraction, realignment and other dental surgical procedures.
- Review certification programs. Professionals can prove their skills in equine sciences by gaining industry certification. For instance, the Association of Equine Veterinary Technicians and Assistants offers an equine veterinary assistant and technician certification program. This certification program involves focused studies in equine sciences as well as clinical rotations working with horses. The program takes 1-2 years to complete, and upon completion individuals are recognized as certified.
Step 4: Find Employment
According to the BLS, between 2010 and 2020, open positions for veterinary technicians and technologists were expected to increase by 52%. Veterinary technicians who want to work as equine dental technicians may find employment with veterinarians who specialize in large animals. Some veterinarians may even refer to themselves as equine dentists. Large animal veterinarians may have their own private offices or they may work at medical research facilities.
Step 5: Maintain Licenses and Certifications
Veterinary technicians must keep their licenses active, which in most states usually involves completing continuing education courses every few years. Other license renewal requirements may include paying additional fees and submitting required paperwork. Renewing industry certifications often involves a similar process of completing continuing education classes and paying fees. Some organizations may require certified professionals to become members of the organization and maintain their memberships as well as their certifications.
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