You might not be aware of it, but veterinary dental technicians are in high demand these days. Dental hygiene is an important part of any animal’s overall health, and has evolved into a big part of modern veterinary medicine.
Many people take their dogs, cats and other pets to the vet for regular teeth cleanings, and to have teeth pulled or cavities filled just as with a human dentist.
The veterinary dental technician is responsible for a wide variety of duties that can range from surgical assisting to animal care. Equine dentists also perform procedures such as removing wolf teeth, "floating" teeth, and making occlusal adjustments as needed.
Dental hygiene has been performed for animals as long as it has the practice of veterinary medicine. The evolution of the technology involved in the practice of veterinary dental hygiene has matched that of human dentistry.
There are two types of veterinary dental technicians - one for small animals like dogs and cats, and another for horses and other large animals. This second specialty is also referred to as an equine dentistry, and is usually practiced under the supervision of an large-animal veterinarian.
One essential aspect of a horse - or any animal for that matter - is the maintenance of good dental health and functions. If an animal’s teeth are in poor condition, this can cause the animal to stop eating as the pain of chewing grows worse. And this of course can lead to a host of more serious health problems if the animal isn’t getting the proper nutrition.
Veterinary dental technicians perform a vital role in the health of animals large and small, and this career field can be challenging, but also very rewarding as the technician can see the results of his or her work reflected in the animals as they are restored to good dental health.
About the job
The job of a veterinary dental technician really depends on what type of specialty the technician has chosen to pursue. If the individual works mainly on small animals, then he or she usually works at an animal clinic, veterinarian’s office, or an animal shelter. These are usually 9 to 5 jobs, with only occasional weekends or evenings to perform emergency procedures.
Equine dental technicians, on the other hand, are part of a larger team that typically includes a veterinarian, the horse’s owner, trainer, and rider (or jockey if it’s a racehorse). This also requires working a lot of evenings and weekends, and traveling from stable to stable - or racetrack - to administer to the horses on location.
Much of the work of a veterinary dental technician is similar to a human dentist, and includes things like performing examinations, giving x-rays, charting teeth, routine and advanced periodontal care, endodontic treatments, restorative dentistry, orthodontics, administering anesthesia, pulling teeth, routine cleanings and more.
As you might imagine, many animals aren’t comfortable with people working on their teeth, and it’s often a challenge to get the animal to sit still long enough for the procedure. Often the animal has to be sedated, or given a local aesthetic until the necessary dental work has been performed.
Training and certification
If you’re interested in pursuing a career as a veterinary dental technician, you might start by checking your state’s requirements. In some states, for example, animal dentistry can only be performed under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian. Other states have less strict requirements in this regard.
While no certification is legally required to practice veterinary dentistry in most states, it’s highly recommended that you become certified, both for the animal’s welfare, and for the technician’s personal assurance. It’s also recommended that the technician have an animal health background as well, and good people skills.
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