One thing you will soon learn in veterinary medicine (if you haven’t already) is that everyone has different interests! In every practice I’ve worked in, there are some techs who love dentistry and others who avoid it at all costs.
If you’re one of those vet techs who loves dentistry, you’re in luck! Veterinary dentistry is a growing field and there are a number of ways that you can translate your love of dentistry into a rewarding career.
First, ask yourself how committed you are to veterinary dentistry as a career path. If it’s your number one priority, it might make sense to pursue specialization and work exclusively in veterinary dentistry.
If you love dentistry but also love aspects of general practice, you may want to forego specialization in favor of on-the-job training and continuing education, which will allow you to practice high-quality dentistry within the general practice environment.
Specialization in Veterinary Dentistry
If you’re incredibly passionate about dentistry, you may want to work towards specialization in this field. Specialization would equip you to work with a veterinary dental specialist, seeing complex dental cases that have been referred by general practice veterinarians. Specialization could also prepare you for a role teaching dentistry to other vet techs, in either a classroom or continuing education setting.
In order to obtain the Veterinary Technician Specialist in Dentistry designation, also known as VTS (Dentistry), you must pursue certification by the Academy of Veterinary Dental Technicians (AVDT).
In order to submit an application to the AVDT, you must meet the following requirements:
- Be legally credentialed as a vet tech in your current state of residence
- Be a member in good standing of the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA)
- Be a subscriber of the Foundation for Veterinary Dentistry
- Have at least 3 years (6,000 hours) of work experience as a vet tech
- Have at least 2,000 hours of veterinary dentistry experience within the previous 2 years
- Have access to intraoral radiographs
- Have a VTS (Dentistry) member who is willing to serve as a mentor1
As you may have noticed, working for a veterinary dental specialist is not a requirement to obtain your credentials as a veterinary dental technician. You can meet many of these requirements in general practice, as long as your practice has intraoral radiographs and you have at least some degree of access to a veterinarian performing advanced dental procedures.
If your application is accepted by the AVDT, you will receive information on additional credentialing requirements. These requirements, which include case logs, case reports, and continuing education, must be completed before you are eligible to sit for the exam. You and your mentor will remain in contact with the AVDT Credentials Chair throughout the credentialing process, which typically takes approximately two years.1
After completing your credentialing requirements, you will be eligible to sit for the AVDT exam. This two-part exam is only offered once per year. It includes a written portion, consisting of 150-200 multiple-choice questions, and a practical portion assessing your hands-on skills.2
Passing the AVDT exam earns you the VTS (Dentistry) designation.
Other Learning Opportunities in Dentistry
What if you love veterinary dentistry, but aren’t willing to give up other aspects of veterinary practice? Instead of specializing, you may want to seek out opportunities to provide high-quality dentistry while remaining in general practice.
If you go this route, you will want to work in a practice that offers high-quality dentistry. As you’ve likely already noticed, there’s significant variation in the level of veterinary care offered in general practices. When you interview for your first job as a vet tech, look for a practice with an emphasis on dental quality over quantity. Pay attention to the quality of dental mentorship you will receive from vets and vet techs in the practice, the quality of dental equipment that is available, and whether you will have the ability to take diagnostic intraoral radiographs. You will learn a lot in your first job; choosing the right practice can ensure that you learn high-quality dentistry instead of learning to cut corners!
Next, seek out additional learning opportunities in dentistry. These learning opportunities may range from online courses to full dental conferences with wetlabs. Listings of dentistry-related CE can be found on the websites of the Academy of Veterinary Dental Technicians and the American Veterinary Dental College.3,4 Dental continuing education can allow you to bring valuable skills back to your practice and your patients.
Take Your Time
If there’s an aspect of veterinary medicine that already appeals to you, such as dentistry, it’s never wrong to begin exploring that interest and considering options within that field. However, don’t feel like you need an area of focus or the desire for specialization straight out of vet tech school. Give yourself time to become familiar with the practice environment and discover your interests before deciding what direction you want to take your career. That way you’ll be sure to choose the right direction for you.
- Application Process. Academy of Veterinary Dental Technicians. Retrieved from: https://www.avdt.us/application-process
- AVDT Exam. Academy of Veterinary Dental Technicians. Retrieved from: https://www.avdt.us/exam
- Courses. Academy of Veterinary Dental Technicians. Retrieved from: https://www.avdt.us/courses
- Veterinary Dental CE Programs. American Veterinary Dental College. Retrieved from: https://www.avdc-dms.org/dms/list/events-intro.cfm