Equine Dentist or Vet

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Willow Flats

Well-Known Member
Oct 30, 2017
Reaction score
Northern California
Hey all, curious who you use to do your horses teeth? When I first got started with horses someone told me; "you should always use an equine dentist." So that is what I have been doing all these years. (I have had an equine dentist who is also a vet, but does only teeth do a bad job before.) The guy I have been using most recently is good, but only a dentist, not a vet, so I have to trailer out to the vet so the vet can give the sedation and he does the teeth, which creates two separate bills. Last time I had my three done the dentist charged different fees for each horse, while the sedation was the same cost per horse. So I paid $205, $215 and $245.

In the last couple of years I started using a new Equine Vet group for regular ranch calls and emergencies and I have had great service. Every year in the month of December they offer a half price dental special charging $149. per horse, but being warned about using regular vets I was afraid to make the switch. I asked around and 2 of my friends say they use this service and are happy so I went ahead and scheduled with the vet in the group that they have used. It will save me about $218 overall.

Thoughts? Do use your regular vet or someone who specializes in dentistry? I realize some areas may have no choice, but curious what your experiences are.
I went to that farrier class over the summer. They ALL said you should not use a vet and you should use an equine dentist. There was this gal there who did equine dentistry and everyone there swore by her.

Then there is me LOL! I have always used my vet. When I first got my biggie I didn’t have a trailer nor did I know any different. Farm calls were added to the bill so I just had the vet do everything. Once I got my trailer, I started taking my biggie in but I still kept using my vet to float teeth…. I was there, might as well get everything done at once. I was told my biggie had a “wave” and to make sure I get him floated every 6 months would be preferable but at least yearly. I opted for yearly.…and he was fine.

Then we moved to the country and I found the BEST & cheapest country vet. He would look in my biggies mouth and say… “He doesn’t really need a float. I mean, I could do it if you want, but A lot of vets tell you they need a float every year when actually they really don’t. A lot of those there city vets are just needing to make that truck payment.” I LOVED that vet, he knew I was from the big city and he ALWAYS made my laugh. My dad loves him too. Dad lives in a big city but drives over an hour to take his cats there. My biggie got a float every couple of years or so LOL

I will still use my vet here at my new place.… my neighbor. I‘ve never used an equine dentist. Half price dentistry in December, I think that is a great savings, might as well save some money!!
We use our same vet to do dentals on all the horses here (2 minis, 3 small ponies, 2 large ponies, and a horse). She does a great job on all of them. When she found that my gelding needed a tooth pulled we went to the equine dentist to get it done. So I've used both but only use the dentist for bigger procedures.
You want someone that is well qualified to do the job, regardless of whether a vet or a dentist. There are good and bad in both groups, so you have to chose wisely. Most states require a vet to administer sedation, so if sedation is needed, a vet needs to be in attendance.
I use an equine dentist and we love her, she came highly recommended by a friend that raised Quarter Horses for years.
I have used both. Usually my vet will do an exam and float. If something comes up unusual, we then get the equine dentist involved. I have two dentists in my area and have used both. One is excellent and the other I was dissatisfied with. My advice is go with who you feel comfortable with. Oh, for me it also depends on whether or not they power float. I personally prefer them to hand float if they can. Power floating makes my guys sore.
I. Oh, for me it also depends on whether or not they power float. I personally prefer them to hand float if they can. Power floating makes my guys sore.
We prefer hand floats too. My equine dentist doesn't recommend power floats, too easy to over do. And, usually requires a speculum, and it seems many practitioners get carried away with how wide they spread/open a speculum, especially on a mini
I have used both - but have been using my regular vet (who has training in dentistry, and mini-sized tools!) since I got Rowan and I am happy with the job he is doing. Like others, I've had good and bad experiences with both dentists and vets. For a while there the power-floating got REALLY out of hand. When I lived in CA around 2000, the shiny new dentist went through my barn with his shiny new power tools and half the horses had to have soaked hay pellets for three days after. I owned a horse in his early 20s who had nubs left for molars due to excessive power-floating. I've also had people not use a speculum or sedation and just do the very fronts and call it good. All that to say it's just very individual, and especially if your horses don't have any particular issues, probably anyone who is reasonably knowledgeable and careful can do a good job! Unfortunately you don't really know until you try. I always insist on looking in there myself too, not that I really know that much, but figure maybe they'll pay more attention if they think I am paying attention. ;)
I have used both, as I was convinced that everyone should be an expert in their field. But, probably, if I came across a smart specialist in these two things, I would hire him, but there are no such in my area 😓
I had the recommended vet out to float my three minis (on the December Dental special) I liked how gentle she was. Her assistant sat on a bale of shavings and held the horses heads on her lap while the vet worked on their mouths, so no hanging head in that sling thing. She had mini sized equipment too.
No soreness or problems eating this morning...so far so good.
My Vet does their teeth also and she 20211110_154208.jpg20210520_144312.jpgdoes a great job! She did our miniature donkey and our thoroughbred. Our miniature horse is too young so after he turns 3 this year he will be checked every quarterly visit as they all are. They get a float done every year and it is included in their wellness plan. All their checkups, dental and routine care is done at home.
Young miniature horses should still be checked yearly, since miniatures seem to be more prone to dental issues such as retained caps. While they may not need a float, they should be checked.
What is everyone's preference on floating teeth, hand file or the electric grinding? I had been out the horse world for 10 years, so when I had Hershey's floated I had no idea they were using the grinding. I don't have many options for vets in my area. I'm leaning towards hand float. Which do any of you prefer?
I just don't want someone to grind my horse's teeth down to nothing, but still get to the back of the mouth and fix what needs fixing. If they can do that with a power float and it's easier for them, by all means. If they are going to go crazy with it, then no thanks! We had a horse in his early 20s with no teeth left because of overzealous power floating before he came to us. Also if they aren't careful, the heat generated can actually damage the teeth even if they don't take too much off.

All that said, my vet did use a power float on Rowan and he was very judicious and took off just what was necessary. He used very brief buzzes to do what he needed to. Just pick your provider well! :) I think it probably matters more how much the person knows and understands than whether they use power or hand floating to get it done. Don't be afraid to pepper them with questions. 🧐

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