Is becoming a veterinary dentist right for me?

The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you are actually willing to commit to pursuing the career. You don’t want to waste your time doing something you don’t want to do. If you’re new here, you should read about:

What do veterinary dentists do?

Still unsure if becoming a veterinary dentist is the right career path? to find out if this career is right for you. Perhaps you are well-suited to become a veterinary dentist or another similar career!

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How to become a Veterinary Dentist

Becoming a veterinary dentist involves a specific pathway, including an undergraduate degree, veterinary school, and specialized training. Here is an overview of the educational requirements:

High School Diploma or Equivalent
Earn a high school diploma or equivalent. High school education provides a foundation in basic communication and math and organizational skills, and it lays the groundwork for further learning.

Bachelor's Degree
Obtain a relevant bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. Since not all schools offer an undergraduate program in veterinary medicine, many aspiring veterinarians opt for a degree in animal sciences, biology, zoology, or another related discipline. Typical prerequisite coursework for veterinary school includes classes in biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics.

Veterinary College Admission Test (VCAT)
Prepare for and take the Veterinary College Admission Test (VCAT). This standardized test assesses prospective veterinary students’ academic and scientific knowledge in areas such as biology, chemistry, and physics, as well as reading comprehension, quantitative reasoning, and problem-solving abilities.

Apply to Veterinary School
It's important to note that admission to veterinary school is competitive, and meeting the minimum requirements does not guarantee acceptance. Applicants often need a strong academic record, relevant animal experience, letters of recommendation, and a well-prepared application.

Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) Degree
Apply to and complete a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program at an accredited veterinary school. These programs typically last four years and provide a broad foundation in veterinary medicine through a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on clinical experience. Core coursework focuses on subjects such as anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, pathology, general surgery, and clinical skills. Practical experience is gained through clinical rotations and externships in various aspects of veterinary medicine, including dentistry.

Practical Experience
During veterinary school, gain hands-on experience working with animals. This can be obtained through volunteering or part-time employment at veterinary clinics, animal shelters, research institutions, conservation organizations, or on farms or ranches. Ideally, seek out opportunities to work with vets who specialize in dentistry.

Licensing Exam
After completing the DVM program, graduates must pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE) or a state-specific licensing exam to become licensed to practise veterinary medicine.

Gain clinical experience in general veterinary practice or complete a one-year rotating internship. This provides a foundation in various disciplines of veterinary medicine before specializing in dentistry.

Veterinary Dentistry Residency
Three-year dentistry residencies accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) provide advanced and extensive hands-on training in clinical practice, research, and teaching, in preparation for the Board examination of the American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC). Residencies are typically offered by veterinary teaching hospitals or specialty referral hospitals.

During the residency, candidates work under the supervision of experienced board-certified veterinary dentists. They are exposed to a variety of dental cases, gain dental surgical experience, and participate in research or scholarly activities.

Continuing Education
Veterinary dentistry is a dynamic field, in which staying informed about the latest advancements and techniques is crucial. Engage in continuing education, attend conferences, and participate in professional development and networking activities within the veterinary and veterinary dentistry communities.

The primary organization responsible for certifying veterinary dentists in the United States is the American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC). Here's an overview of AVDC’s certification process:

  • Residency Training (see Veterinary Dentistry Residency section above)
  • Examination – Candidates for board certification need to pass a rigorous examination administered by the AVDC. The examination evaluates the candidate's knowledge, diagnostic skills, and ability to manage dental cases in various animal species.
  • Case Log and Reports – Candidates are often required to maintain a detailed log of their dental cases, including a variety of procedures they have performed. They may also need to submit case reports demonstrating their clinical competency.
  • Research and Publications – While not always a strict requirement, involvement in research and publication of articles in reputable journals can strengthen a candidate's application for board certification. It demonstrates a commitment to advancing knowledge in veterinary dentistry.
  • Interview (Oral Examination) – Some certification processes may include an oral examination, during which candidates discuss specific cases, treatment plans, and their approach to veterinary dentistry with a panel of experienced examiners.
  • Approval by the AVDC Board – After successfully completing all requirements, candidates' applications are reviewed by the AVDC Board. Once approved, they are officially recognized as board-certified veterinary dentists, known as Diplomates of the AVDC (DAVDC).
  • Continuing Education – To maintain board certification, veterinary dentists must engage in continuing education throughout their careers. This involves staying updated on the latest advancements in veterinary dentistry, attending conferences, participating in research activities, and periodic re-examination or case review.

Advanced Training
Some veterinary dentists choose to pursue additional education, such as a master’s or Ph.D., during or after their residency. These credentials are particularly valuable for individuals who are interested in academic or research-oriented careers.

Professional Organizations
In addition to the AVDC, the following organizations support the veterinary dentistry community by fostering collaboration and providing resources and advocacy:

  • American Veterinary Dental Society (AVDS) – The AVDS is an organization that brings together professionals interested in veterinary dentistry. It provides a forum for education, research, and communication among veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and other individuals with an interest in dental health for animals.
  • European Veterinary Dental College (EVDC) – The EVDC is the European counterpart to the AVDC, overseeing the certification process for European veterinary dentists. It promotes high standards in veterinary dentistry and provides a framework for education, training, and research in the field.
  • International Veterinary Dentistry Institute (IVDI) – The IVDI is a global organization dedicated to advancing veterinary dentistry on an international level. It provides educational resources, hosts conferences, and promotes collaboration among veterinary dentists worldwide.
  • World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) – WSAVA is an international association that includes specialists in various veterinary fields, including dentistry. It provides a global platform for collaboration, education, and the exchange of knowledge among veterinary professionals.
  • American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) – The AVMA is a comprehensive association representing the broader field of veterinary medicine in the United States.