At some schools, it's more difficult to conduct a live horse lab segment of the course because of the regulations of the Institutional
Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) and its specific guidelines for using live animals. "Hopefully, we can do the live horse
work, as it's my favorite part of the entire lab," Whittle says. "When the students work on a live animal they can be tentative,
apprehensive at first—afraid they might injure it. It's fascinating watching the students as they mature in front of your
eyes and begin to get it."
In addition to the live portion, the dentistry course has a cadaver lab, which gives the students the experience of examining
the oral cavity and using the instrumentation without the concern of working around a live animal.
"Though each instructor teaches a little differently, we're working toward a more standardized curriculum, so it will be more
consistent from school to school," Whittle says. "For the most part our biggest emphasis is on a thorough examination—the
basis of equine dentistry. There isn't time to teach everything, but we try to hit the highlights of what's most important—anatomy,
physiology and the primary pathologies—and briefly touch on sedation and restraint. We also discuss and show the basic floating
techniques and the use of the different instrumentation."
The AAEP sends out equipment that provides the most important items necessary to do a proper dental examination and treatment.
Because of concerns surrounding who should be the appropriate person to perform dentistry on horses—a lay person or a veterinarian—Whittle
says, "We have tried to stress that you really can't do anything without a proper physical examination of the oral cavity,
as well as a general health history of the horse. Proper dentistry, therefore, should be left to the licensed equine veterinary
Stephen Galloway, DVM, an equine fellow of the Academy of Equine Dentistry, chairman of the AAEP Dentistry Committee in 2011
and owner of Animal Care Hospital in Somerville Tenn., also conducts the dentistry short course. He has been actively involved
in planning and executing the dental short course program for many years.
"Since the majority of the horses that veterinarians see in general practice have some degree of dental disease, it is personally
rewarding to teach students techniques and procedures that they can use daily to improve the health of their patients," Galloway
says. "The students are very open to new concepts, especially to equine dentistry, which is not a major part of the veterinary
curriculum at most schools. And it's refreshing that most students have not been exposed to the nonveterinary equine dental
procedures and philosophies that have been practiced during the past 20 years. It's easier to teach students with unbiased
Since most of the fourth-year students are involved with clinical rotations and many of the third-year students have other
priorities, most of the students participating in the dental courses are first- and second-year veterinary students.
"Typically, we try to minimize the lecture portion and focus on the lab portion of the course because these students normally
spend eight hours a day in lectures," Galloway says. "We try to do most of our training in a case-based lab format. For example,
in the cadaver lab, the students will perform and document their oral examinations, identify pathologies and make the associated
diagnoses, formulate a treatment plan and perform nerve blocks and dental procedures. The students practice on the cadavers
until they're comfortable with the instruments and procedure.
"On the last day of the course, under the supervision of the instructors, they examine and perform dental procedures on live
horses," Galloway continues. "They get real-world experience in a controlled environment."