Despite the plethora of information available there still appears to be confusion amongst some horse owners, veterinary surgeons and equine dental technicians (EDTs) over who can do what in a horse’s mouth. A recent poll of BEVA members indicated that more than half are unaware of the dentistry techniques that EDTs are permitted to perform and the levels of veterinary supervision required. In response, BEVA has put together a new information leaflet explaining the regulations surrounding equine dental care and describing where recommended practice differs from the letter of the law.
All diagnostic and treatment procedures in the horse’s mouth are Acts of Veterinary Surgeryunder the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966. The only exception is the manual removal of small dental overgrowths and sharp enamel points with hand instruments.
However it is acknowledged that there are a limited number of procedures that, despite being considered Acts of Veterinary Surgery, may be delegated safely to suitably qualified EDTs without compromising the horse’s welfare and safety. In 2009 the RCVS, with assistance from BEVA, BVDA and BAEDT, listed these processes and categorised all dental procedures into three groups:
Category 1 – Procedures that are not Acts of Veterinary Surgery
Category 2 - Procedures that are Acts of Veterinary Surgery but can be safely delegated to suitably qualified EDTs
Category 3 - Procedures that are Acts of Veterinary Surgery and cannot be safely delegated
Despite there being no legal basis supporting non-vets performing Category 2 procedures, the RCVS has stated that there would be no public interest in prosecuting vets who collaborate with suitably qualified EDTs to perform non-invasive (Categories 1 and 2) procedures.
BEVA recommends that, for their own protection, all vets who deal with horses:
- Are familiar with Category 1 and Category 2 procedures (see below and here)
- Ensure they know whether or not any EDT that they are collaborating with is qualified to perform Category 2 procedures (i.e. has a “Defra approved” qualification - BEVA/BVDA or WWAED).
- Report to the VMD instances of non-vets supplying oral sedatives or other prescription only drugs.
Vicki Nicholls, equine vet at Wright and Morten in Cheshire, chair of BEVA council’s Paraprofessional Committee and member of the British Association of Equine Dental Technicians (BAEDT) said: “The lack of awareness is alarming and clearly emphasises the need to make vets and equine dental technicians fully conscious of current regulations regarding equine dentistry. Non-adherence to the regulations is a serious matter and could lead to prosecution of the veterinary surgeon, EDT and/or owner.”
The number of vets taking the BEVA/BVDA exam in equine dentistry has increased in recent years with about 15% of those who have passed the exam being vets. This is indicative of the growing awareness, amongst owners and vets, of the importance of dental health. It also reflects a desire to develop and demonstrate both practical skills and a theoretical understanding of equine dental care to augment the vet’s broader medical knowledge. Expertise in equine dental care has, for many veterinary practices, become a valuable asset.
Copies of the dental regulations information leaflet can be downloaded from the BEVA website at www.beva.org.uk. BEVA also runs regular dentistry CPD courses, details of which can be found on the website.
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