The Patient With Over 250 Teeth!
Could you imagine examining and then cleaning 250 teeth all on the same patient? All while wearing a wetsuit? Okay, the last question seems a bit strange, I know, but I am going somewhere with all these questions. I’m talking about the field of Veterinary dentistry. And with my questions, I’m specifically talking about our fellow mammals, dolphins, some of which have over 250 teeth. I know you probably didn’t choose Orthodontics, Periodontics or Pediatric Dentistry based on the number of teeth you’d have to exam on an individual patient, but after learning about dolphins, you’re probably reassured with your decision to treat little kids. If you’re like me, you’ve probably never given much thought about veterinary dentistry. It turns out, it’s a fascinating field.
What is veterinary dentistry exactly? Well, there are basically two primary fields in veterinary dentistry: equine dentistry and then non-equine dentistry. Both of those fields contain the same job duties that you’d find in human dentistry. These duties include oral surgery, treating disease, fillings, and of course examinations and cleanings. It seems that the hardest part of being in the field of veterinary dentistry is the fact that animals don’t talk. Veterinary dentists don’t have the luxury that human dentists have. Their patients don’t walk through the door saying, “Every time I eat candy, (points to tooth) this tooth hurts.” They must do a thorough examination to be sure they don’t miss even the smallest clue of dental distress. Dr. Gieche, a 20-year expert in the field of equine dentistry suggests that “a full examination of every tooth in the mouth requires sedation.” That’s a time-consuming procedure for something that is so routine in human dentistry. It makes me feel bad for all the times I ever complained about any routine exam, we humans have it easy.
The path to becoming a veterinary dentist begins the same way a human dentist path does by getting a bachelor’s degree primarily studying the field of sciences like biology, chemistry, and physics. They must apply and attend a school of veterinary medicine. This is usually a four-year program. After obtaining a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, a veterinarian must finally participate in a residency program. As mentioned earlier, there are generally two residency paths to become a veterinary dentist: Equine or Non-Equine. Veterinary dentists, like human dentists, must be up to date on all board certifications.
According to Doctorly.org, career growth looks to be great for the next five years. Veterinary dentistry is projected to see a growth around 35% between now and 2020. Unfortunately, if you’re a current human dentist hoping to switch paths to the veterinary side, because of your love for animals, a career switch would be not be recommended. Firstly, you’d have to redo years of schooling. Lastly, your pay would likely decrease, significantly. The average pay for veterinarians was around $83,000 annually. A number that is almost half of what the average dentist makes in annually in America. But if you are really interested in cleaning over 200 teeth in one sitting, or you really love animals, switching fields and becoming a veterinary dentist may be right for you!