Even animals have a need for qualified dentists. From having regular dental checkups to treating periodontal disease and completing a root canal, there are several similarities in the field of dentistry for animals. And since animals lack the ability to speak and can't articulate to the dentist what is 'hurting', it's critical for a board certified Veterinary Dentist to have a clear understanding not only of animal behavior, but also their complete anatomy. It's this diverse experience required that makes becoming a veterinary dentist one of the more challenging professions to achieve.
What is a Veterinary Dentist?
A Veterinary Dentist is responsible for the oral health of animals. Like other Veterinary specialties, the Veterinary Dentistry field is comprised of professionals that have the dedication and passion to care for animals. They are licensed in each US State and must have extensive knowledge of animal anatomy, pharmacology, anesthesiology, pathology, physiology, neurology and radiology – among many other medical specialties.
Veterinary Dentistry job duties include:
After becoming a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine a qualified candidate will enroll in a Veterinary Dentistry program; monitored by the American Veterinary Dental College. The AVDC is recognized by the American Board of Veterinary Specialties as a specialist certification organization in the field of Veterinary Dentistry in North America and works along with the Academy of Veterinary Dentistry in supporting training programs to achieve expertise in Veterinary Dentistry.
Like other Veterinary specialties, dentistry is an invasive practice that often has a significant impact on the overall health of animals. Typically the use of tranquilizers, sedatives, and anesthetics are used in the treatment of animals – not only to reduce anxiety for the animals, but to assist the dentist in completing their work.
There are two primary career paths that a Veterinary Dentist can follow; equine dentistry and non-equine dentistry.
The Educational Requirements for Becoming a Veterinary Dentist
The educational path to becoming a Veterinary Dentist begins by completing a Bachelor Degree then obtaining a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. After completing this process, the successful candidate will enroll in a Veterinary College or University program – where they will choose one of two different career paths:
An AVDC Equine Dental Specialty is a board certified veterinarian who has been certified by AVDC as having demonstrated specialist expertise and knowledge in equine dentistry. This certification includes passing the AVDC Equine examination and appropriate residency requirements.
Step by Step Educational Path of a Veterinary Dentist
Pre-Graduate School Bachelor Degree
In order to successfully become a Veterinary Dentist a Bachelor's Degree is first required. Primary course study includes a focus on biological sciences, mathematics, chemistry and physics. Due to the fact that each post-graduate Veterinary medical college requires difference core classes, it's suggested that a candidate for Veterinary Clinical Pharmacology contacts the veterinary college they'd like to attend to receive a specific course outline that will help expedite their educational path.
Earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
After receiving a Bachelor Degree, the education path then advances to becoming a licensed Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. This is a four-year program where in the first two years the outline is focused on general animal anatomy, physiology, virology and nutrition. The third year shifts towards clinical studies, where the Veterinarian student has the chance to apply into practice what they've learned in the classroom. The last year is spent applying these experiences onsite – typically at specialist hospitals that are associated with many Veterinary colleges in the United States.
This is also where the licensing exam is taken. In order to practice Veterinary medicine a candidate must pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam. Most states require additional certification to practice in each state.
Complete a Veterinary Dentist Residency Program
The residency program for becoming a Dentist in Veterinary science is the final educational phase. However, unlike other veterinarian specialties, the field of dentistry offers several residency options – which is primarily based on the standards required by each state. According to the American Veterinary Dental College, there are over 20 unique residency programs. Most of the residency training is completed in either major university veterinary hospitals or private practices that are aligned with the AVDC.
In order to be eligible to become a board certified veterinary dentist, the candidate must complete residency training and apply to the AVDC to complete their certification program. The AVDC does not provide detailed information on this certification however they do offer several guidelines for two specific career paths:
It's recommended that any potential candidate that wants to learn how to become a Veterinary Dentist contacts the AVDC directly in order to receive detailed instructions. One thing that is documented is that Veterinarians need to maintain their board certification with practical on-the-job experience and it is recommended that any Veterinary Dentist become a member of the American Veterinary Dental Society or the Academy of Veterinary Dentistry.
Understanding the Career Path of Becoming a Veterinary Dentist
Career Options for Veterinary Dentists
Typically a Veterinary Dentist follows a career path that is similar to any specialist in Veterinary medicine. Most candidates that receive board certification in Veterinary Dentistry typically join an existing dental clinic to provide services to animal patients. They also tend to be employed in Veterinary hospitals – where emergency dentistry services are offered.
It is also becoming a popular trend for Veterinary Dentists to partner with other veterinary specialists to open private clinics for specialized veterinary care.
The salary base for a Veterinary Dentist is typically among the higher in the Veterinary discipline due to the fact that most employment opportunities are found in the private sector. A report made by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2010 indicated that the median salary for a Veterinarian approached $83,000. The top ten percent of all veterinarians earned a salary of over $141,680 each year. And since the American Veterinary Medical Association documents a Veterinary Dentist as a specialty, the board-certified veterinary dentists typically approach the top tier of salary, especially when working in metropolitan areas where the average cost of living is higher.
The career outlook for becoming a Veterinary Dentist is good. According to the BLS, the field of Veterinary Medicine is expected to see a growth rate approaching 35% in the upcoming five year window from 2015 till 2020. The specialty of Veterinary Dentistry faces a few challenges however – primarily due to new technology that is making this specialty much easier to offer better dental care to animal patients. On the flip side, since more animal pet owners are trending higher in providing quality care for their animal friends, the need for qualified board certified veterinary dentists is climbing.
The key element that any potential Veterinary Dentist must possess is a broad understanding of animal biology and how that relates to the oral cavity and dental care. New studies are finding that as oral health goes – so does the overall health of animals. Veterinary Dentistry is a great profession – and as more pet owners seek out quality care for their animal friends, an annual dental check-up is growing on that list.