Thinking about specializing as a veterinary dental technician? That’s a great career to pursue if you choose to – and we can help you make your decision!
Most people want the best for their pets and try to look after them as well as they can, but they forget that oral hygiene is just as important for animals as it is for humans. Because animals can’t communicate to their keepers that a tooth is sore and often carry on eating despite the pain, an owner might not know the agony their pet is experiencing. It’s therefore usually only when a person takes their animal to the vet that a problem is detected – and this is where a veterinary dental technician comes in.
A veterinary dental tech is someone who has completed their two or four year course to be a ‘general’ vet tech and through experience and further training, has qualified in oral hygiene, medicine and dentistry for animals. As an expert in oral care, you may work with a licensed vet to not only examine your patients and diagnose any problems, but also to advise their owners on the importance of looking after their pets’ teeth and teaching owners about the impact dental hygiene has on their pet’s overall health. In fact, one of the great things about being a veterinary dental technician is that you could save many animals’ lives by identifying oral diseases and treating them before it leads to more severe problems, such as dietary disorders or even kidney, liver or heart failure.
(And you thought vet dentists didn’t deal with life-threatening problems!) Talk about an amazing opportunity to make a positive difference in an animal’s life!
Of course, the job does come with other responsibilities, including taking x-rays of the jaw, performing root canals, professional teeth cleaning, placing metal crowns, removing cancer in the mouth, correcting orthodontic deformities and repairing broken/fractured teeth or jaws.
A lot of these procedures can only be done with the animal asleep, and you’d therefore need to have sound knowledge of anesthesia and pain management / blocking as well. (Bear in mind, you may not only be treating pets such as cats, dogs or guinea pigs.
Some veterinary dental technicians have treated much bigger creatures such as gorillas and hippos – you wouldn’t want them to wake up while you’re fiddling in their mouths, would you?)
To qualify further as a veterinary dental technician (or any other specialty vet tech for that matter), you will most likely need to gain a few years’ experience as a ‘general’ veterinary tech in an animal clinic, hospital, veterinary practice or even a zoo. Depending on the course / institution you qualify through, you will require between 4,500 to 6,000 hours working as a vet tech (this works out to 3-5 years experience), with about 3000 of those hours being involved in animal dentistry. You will need to submit a log of all the cases you have worked on, which explains the dental procedures you took part in and how you completed them. You will also need to attend extra classes in subjects including chemistry, medical/dental terminology, tooth extraction, oral anatomy (a bulldog’s facial structure is very different to that of a fox terrier), anesthesia and more.
Once you have done all of this, your log will be reviewed by an agency such as The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) to see if your experience is substantial enough for you to sit for a certification exam. Once you pass this exam, you will be qualified.
Choosing to become a veterinary dental technician is a wise decision – with such a demand for ‘expert’ vet technicians you may have your pick in terms of job opportunities. If you have a passion for dentistry and a love for animals, this is the career for you. Combine that with the knowledge that you’re helping to ease the suffering of your patients and providing important knowledge to their owners to help them thrive and live the best quality of life they can, what more could you want in a job?