Is Sedation Necessary?By Gary Wilson
BVSc MVSc MACVSc CMAVA Cert Teach
School of Veterinary Science
University of Queensland
Today's "state of the art" equine dentistry requires sedation to safely and effectively perform the in-depth, complete
examination of the teeth and oral cavity and the treatments necessary for maximum health, performance and longevity.
Most leaders in the field agree that it is not possible to perform a thorough examination and correction without
substantial sedation. Whilst the procedures are usually not painful, they can cause many horses to become apprehensive.
Modern sedatives are relatively safe and allow the horse to relax so that the work can be done effectively and without
stress to the horse.
Equine dentists are still not legally allowed to administer anaesthetics or sedatives (see our section on Legislation). Even
though these drugs are much safer these days, they are not without potential adverse reactions. Veterinarians, however,
are fully trained in the use of these drugs and can rapidly diagnose and treat adverse outcomes. This is why only
veterinarians are legally permitted to administer anaesthetics or sedatives. An untrained individual administering sedation
has no recourse or resource to fall back on in the event of a drug reaction.
If the horse is insured and an equine dentist sedates the horse while performing a treatment, the insurance company will
decline coverage in the event of an accident to the horse or to those handling it.
Veterinary dentistry, just like human dentistry, has become an area of medicine requiring specialised education, equipments
and abilities and the bar is continually being raised. Modern equine dentistry cannot be performed without adequate
sedation, a full mouth speculum, a dental pick, a dental mirror and a good light source to full assess the mouth.