Many people carry out dental examination and treatment in the UK.
Some of these are Veterinary Surgeons, some are approved Equine Dental Technicians (BAEDT) who have passed an examination approved by DEFRA, to carry out some dental procedures whilst others have no formal training or qualification at all.
Dental procedures have been classified into categories according to who is allowed to perform each procedure. Only Veterinary Surgeons are legally allowed to carry out all procedures.
Category 1 Procedures:
This category contains simple procedures only, which may be carried out by anyone, irrespective of whether they have undertaken any training or have any qualifications.
Category 2 Procedures:
These are additional procedures that can legally be carried out by an approved EDT, with certain restrictions.
- Examination, evaluation and recording of dental abnormalities.
- The extraction of teeth or dental fragments with negligible periodontal attachment. (This only includes teeth that are already very loose and have minimal attachment holding them in place. It does not include teeth that are more firmly attached).
Legislation governing dental procedures
- The removal of erupted, non-displaced wolf teeth in the upper or lower jaw under direct and continuous veterinary supervision. (This means that legally a vet must be present if an EDT removes a wolf tooth and must supervise the procedure. Obviously, most vets would need to charge for their time).
- Palliative rasping of fractured and adjacent teeth.
- The use of motorised dental instruments. These are used to reduce dental overgrowths and remove sharp enamel points only. Horses should be sedated unless it is deemed safe to undertake any proposed procedure without sedation, with full informed consent of the owner. (Only Veterinary Surgeons are legally allowed to prescribe and use sedation and pain relief.)
Category 3 Procedures:
These include all those involving tissues that are "vascular" (meaning having blood vessels) or innervated (meaning supplied by nerves). These are considered invasive procedures and consequently are restricted by law to be performed by qualified veterinary surgeons ONLY. Among those procedures classed as schedule 3 are widening of diastemata (gaps between teeth) and removal of unerrupted or displaced (“blind/unerrupted/oblique”) wolf teeth.
It is ILLEGAL for anyone other than a veterinary surgeon to perform these procedures and the legislation states that should a non-veterinarian illegally carry out a category 3 procedure, even if under the direction of, or assisting, a veterinary surgeon then the veterinary surgeon, EDT and owner of the horse are ALL liable for potential prosecution or disciplinary action, should unforeseen complications occur.
As noted above, the removal of erupted, non-displaced wolf teeth in the upper or lower jaw must be under direct and continuous veterinary supervision, i.e. the veterinary surgeon must be present to supervise the entire procedure.