Are you getting value from your Equine Dental Service Provider?

Value for money is one of the key parts of choosing any product or service, but equine dentistry is a complex service. How do you, the horse owner or trainer, decide on whether you are getting value or not from your service provider? In this article, we show you how you can cut through the cloud of uncertainty and calculate what you should be paying for quality equine dentistry, and what you should be getting for your money!

Let’s break down every step of what is involved in having your horse’s “teeth done” by a professional person (a person who charges a fee for their services).

1) They turn up to do your horse, and have informed you if running late etc.

This is part of any professional service, and the cost to any business of running a schedule requires significant time and investment, so let’s give this $10 value. – Total so far = $10.

2) They have clean and well organised, modern equipment that will allow them to do the job properly.

Clean, well organised equipment

The equipment will allow them to show you, the owner/trainer what is going on in your horse’s mouth. Failure to have good quality and clean equipment may result in them spreading viruses and bacteria between horses, and could also result in injury to your horse, you or them?

Investment in good equipment is an essential part of the science of equine dentistry, so this value could vary from $2 – 50/horse – depending on the number of horses they do and the level of equipment they will use for the range of conditions they encounter. So let’s give this an average of $10 value – Total so far = $20

3) They examine the horse holistically for you prior to looking at the teeth. This could involve them asking how the horse has been going, has it had any problems, do you have any queries that need specifically investigating. It could even involve a brief clinical examination if they are a veterinarian, looking at the eyes, nose, skin, listening to the heart and lungs, assessing hydration and more if desired. Maybe check out a problem on the horse that has been worrying you for awhile. So obviously there is a large range in skill and qualification levels here, ranging from no examination before putting the gag on (zero value), to a proper clinical examination by a skilled and University Degree qualified Equine Veterinarian (value of $99). So on average, let’s give this an average of $30 – Total so far = $50.

4) They sedate the horse so that they can thoroughly and safely examine ALL of the teeth and mouth structures (gums, cheeks, palate & tongue). With sedation, the horse will be less stressed about it, have little or no memory of any painful experience encountered during the procedure, and most importantly will co-operate with a thorough examination process. Most mouth pathologies are painful, and need to be addressed to investigate them and treat them, so pain is an inevitable part of dentistry in humans and horses. Allowing the patient to experience and remember the painful experience is the choice of the owner/trainer, so choose wisely!

Remember that it is a criminal act for a non-vet to be providing and sedating your horse , and if you choose to ignore this law, you are supporting a black market in drugs which have also been used in date rapes, murders and suicides. Any adverse effects or accidents/injuries incurred in this illegal dental service will be not covered by insurance, and veterinary treatment (essential in an insurance and public liability claim) may not be available.

Value of a qualified, insured and licensed veterinarian sedating and doing nerve blocks if necessary to your horse, so ALL of the mouth can be properly examined, demonstrated and treatments offered – range of $30-90, so let’s give an average of $40. – Total so far = $90.

5) Some veterinarians use mobile crushes, and some of these have scales on them. Accurate weighing of your horse carries various benefits, including allowing for accurate deworming, monitoring and comparing weights from year to year, monitoring growth of young stock etc. Maybe a height stick is available too?

Value of horse being weighed on digital scales - $5-15, so let’s average it at $10 – Total of $100

6) The mouth is properly examined through both feeling and looking , after having flushed the mouth out with clean water. Some problems like sharp teeth are best detected by feel. But others, like a diseased and discoloured tooth, or an exposed pulp/nerve chamber, cannot be felt by ANYONE’s FINGERS, so the horse’s head must be very still, so a bright light and angled mirrors can be placed right to the back of the mouth, and every surface of every tooth be examined.

If a problem is sighted, it may be necessary to use very sharp pulp explorers or periodontal pocket probes to further investigate the problem. This problem should be shown to the owner to help educate the owner so they can understand the magnitude of the problem and best decide which treatment option to go for.

All aspects of the mouth need to be examined and palpated. Here the probe is showing an open pulp or nerve chamber, which could be painful and cause root infection.

Value of a thorough oral exam – using a full mouth speculum, a well washed out mouth, a sedated head that stays still and not tossing and moving about, use of a very bright light , mirrors, probes. Range of $20-80, but let’s give an average of $30. – Total so far $130.

7) Odontoplasty – the sharp points are filed back, and bevelled so that they do not return for 6-12 months, and any elongations (hooks, waves, ramps, excessive ridges) are addressed. Knowing how much to take off is essential for both not harming the horse, (by taking too much off), and ensuring that the sharpness doesn’t return too soon (by not taking enough off). Being able to remove ALL of the sharp points, and not just those on the teeth in the front half of the mouth is essential for the comfort of the horse.

Evaluating and safely modifying the height and angles of the teeth to bring them closer to a normal mouth is another essential skill in proper equine dentistry. It must be remembered that horses teeth are living organs, have nerves, and so if too much tooth is removed, it can be very painful, and kill the tooth, eventually leading to painful tooth root infections etc. SO when reducing a tall tooth (e.g. hook, ramp, waves etc), it is very important to file some tooth, then rinse with water, then examine the tooth surface so you can see how close you are getting to the nerve. To reduce a tall tooth blindly, with no looking or intermittent cooling with water, then examining it, is not only lazy, but is dangerous to the tooth and the horse.

When filing down a tall tooth, it is important to intermittently stop, flush the surface and examine to see how close you are getting to the nerve.

Value of odontoplasty – varies from $10 if done poorly (sharp points left untreated) to $150 if done very well in a bad mouth. So let’s give an average value of $50. Total so far = $180.

8) Assessment of the soft tissue of the mouth including gum lines, cheeks, tongue and palate. These can only be done if the horse is sedated and bright lights, mirror and probes are used. Gum disease is very common in horses and causes short term pain and long term premature loss of teeth. Rigid endoscopes are now being used by some veterinarians in more complex cases, to help visualise and demonstrate the dental and soft tissue problems to the owner, and also to be able to ask opinions from other equine dental vet experts around the world. Value of assessment of soft tissue, including endoscopic exam – range of $11-144, so an average of $20 – total so far is $200.

9) Sometimes x-rays will be needed to further investigate a problem, as is so common in human dentistry. If you vet has their x-ray machine ready to go, you can save additional call out fees, extra travel fees etc, so simply having this service whilst doing a dental must be worth, on average over all of your horses at least $10? - total so far = $210.

10) Your service provider gives you a tax invoice, which means they will be paying income tax from their earnings, so contributing to the ambulance, hospital equipment, staff, medication etc needed to save your life when you or your family and friends next fall off a horse J . Without a tax invoice, you can assume they are using all of what you pay them to help finance their next holiday or home improvements etc. Value of income tax ranges from 20-45 %, so let’s give it an average value here of $20. – Total so far = $230.

By showing you and inviting you to feel inside your horse’s mouth, before and after the work is done you will understand better what it means to your horse.

11) Your service provider has shown you in the mouth BEFORE and AFTER the work they have done, so that you as a responsible owner can understand what your horse is going through, pain and functionality wise in their mouth.

It also is proof that your service provider is trustworthy, transparent, and not conning you into believing them. Value of this 3-5 mins of showing and explaining to you range of $3-30 – average of $10? Total so far = $240

12) If your horse is a gelding, it gets its sheath and penis cleaned and checked for beans and tumors. It is difficult to do this without sedation, and some vets will do it complimentary with a dental. To have it done separately, it would cost between $25-50, so let’s give it a value here, across all horses – mares (who don’t need it) and males – of $20 per horse. Total so far $260.

Sheath clean is an additional benefit of having your horse sedated for a dental

13) You receive a dental chart for your own records, and as a statement to your friends and potential purchasers of your horse in the future that you are a good caring owner, prepared to invest in the long and short term health of your horse.

Value of a dental chart – range $2-20 – average of $10 – total so far = $270.

14) Your service provider will send you a reminder via mail or email or text, that your horse’s teeth are due to be checked again. Value of reminders - $5 – total so far = $275.

15) Your service provider is registered for GST, which goes towards improving the national economy, building of new roads, schools, hospitals etc, and is approximately 10 % of each service, so you can add on $27 here – total so far = $302.

16) Are they insured with public liability and professional indemnity in the case of injury/accident/death to your horse, yourself or them whilst working on your property? Average range of value – depending on what type of insurance, how much work they do etc $2-20 – average of $10. – Total so far $312.

17) Travel to your horse. In order to save you the time to float your horse to them , they have invested in a vehicle, continue to register and maintain it, paid for fuel, and have given up their time to drive to you. What does that cost them in time and money, and what does it save you? Be honest now!

If it is not an acceptable travel fee for you, ask if you can float your horse to their property or somewhere to meet them, e.g. at another property where they are already working so you can share the costs of travels, setting up, cleaning up after etc.

Below is a table where you can tick what components of a dental that your service provider is giving you to help you decide if they are value for money:



Av Value



Value of deal so far?

1) Easy to make an appointment and they show up when they say they will or let you know if running late

$ 10


2) Clean, well maintained, modern equipment



3) Holistic clinical examination of the horse prior to looking at the teeth, and opportunity for you to ask questions about dental and non dental issues etc



4) Legal use of sedation and nerve blocks (must be a vet) with a range of sedatives available to be able to tailor the anaesthetic to the health of your horse and type of dental work to be done.



5) Weighing of your horse on digital scales +/- height stick



6) Thorough examination of all structures of the mouth, using water flush, bright light, mirror, probes. Feeling AND looking for problems



7) Proper and safe filing of ALL sharp points, especially right up the back of the mouth, and safely correcting overgrown teeth etc if necessary. Safe reduction of tall teeth required periodic flushing of the filed surface, and then looking at that surface, using light and mirror to check how close you are getting to the nerve.



8) Proper looking and using probes to assess the health and diseases of the gums, tongue, palate and cheeks. Possibly using a scope as well.



9) Having X-ray machine on hand in case x-rays are needed



10) They give you a proper tax invoice as proof that they pay their taxes to contribute to your medicare hospital and doctor costs when you fall off your horse J



11) They show you and maybe invite you to feel inside the mouth before AND after the work being done, so you become more educated.



12) Sheath/penis clean done on males after each dental



13) They give you a dental chart for each horse



14) They will send you a reminder for when your horse is due again.



15) They are registered for GST which will go towards improving your roads, hospitals, schools, police force etc



16) They will readily email you a copy of their public liability and professional indemnity insurance policy to ensure both you, your horse and they are covered in case of any accident/injury or death on your property



17) They will travel to your horse, using the vehicle they bought and maintained, the fuel they used, the time they gave up to come to you, and the time it saved you having to float your horse to their business place?