FLOATING TEETH
Don Blazer
copyright©2008


        Who should float your horse's teeth?  A veterinarian, someone who calls himself an "equine dentist" or you?

        (Equine dentistry is regulated by each state, some saying only a licensed vet, other states say trained dental technicians, others allow anyone under the direct supervision of a veterinarian, still other states don't address the question.)

       Veterinarians say, "Veterinarians".  And the veterinary profession is making quite an effort to make the "floating of teeth" a "practice of medicine."

       "Equine dentists" say those who have extensive study, lots of practice, and their focus exclusively on the health and care of equine teeth.

      Or, you can do it yourself; normally, it's not a big deal, complicated or very involved.  (Here is where both veterinarians and equine dentists scream that I'm crazy and haven't got a clue as to how complicated and complex the whole matter is.  My response is, "sure it can be complicated, complex and at times need skilled, educated attention…but for the most part your screams are actually made to protect your income.)

       Most likely you won't "float" your own horse because you won't spend the time to practice nor the money to purchase a good float.

       So, let's rule you out.  I'll continue to float my own horses until I need some skilled, educated assistance.

      What is floating?  It is simply the removal of sharp edges, hooks or points from the horse's teeth.  These edges and points develop because as the horse chews it moves the mandible upward and inward.  It is this repetitious grinding that wears the chewing teeth surfaces on angles which leave edges…outside on the upper teeth and inside on the lower teeth.

      The sharp edges can cut the tongue or inner cheek surfaces and may become very uncomfortable for the horse when eating or being worked with a bit, bit-less bridle or hackamore.  Removing the edges eliminates most problems.  There can be other serious problems associated with the horse's teeth, but they are in the minority.

      With you out of the picture, is the veterinarian the most qualified to float teeth?  Veterinarians get a fair number of hours of study on equine teeth, and they get some actual practice.  But, do the study and limited practice make them the only ones qualified….hardly!  There are many vets who won't float teeth, many who can't get the job done well and most who are only mediocre at best.

      So why the push to have the practice of floating teeth part of equine medicine?

      I think the professional association believes it must take a stand to protect the financial and "image" interests of veterinarians.  At the same time, most of the vets I've questioned don't believe they are necessarily the most qualified, but do take the posture that only licensed veterinarians should be administering drugs; the presumption being that the horse needs to be or will be tranquilized for the procedure.

      Is an equine dentist the most qualified?  A graduate of an equine dentistry school is probably as knowledgeable about equine teeth as most veterinarians, and has most likely had more hours of actual floating practice…since it is his single subject of study.  Specialists tend to be better at their specialty than do "general practitioners."

      How about we get lawmakers out of the picture and don't write any laws about who can and can't float teeth?

      How about the vets and dentists get together and work together so each provides a higher quality of care for our horses.

      How about you-not some association or politician---make the final selection!  No hidden agenda here; you'll eventually figure out what is best for your horse.



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