In 2014, the American Veterinary Medical Association approved recognition of a new board certification in equine dentistry. The American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC) Equine Dental Specialty Diplomate is a veterinarian who has been certified by AVDC as having demonstrated specialist knowledge and expertise in equine veterinary dentistry as a result of completing the AVDC entrance requirements and having successfully passed the AVDC equine examination. The AVDC has long recognized a non-species specific certification that many small animal dentists hold.

Dr. Travis Henry, a staff veterinarian with the Equine Medicine & Dentistry Service as well as the (small animal) Dentistry & Oral Surgery Service (DOSS), is one of only 17 veterinarians in the world to hold this equine specific dentistry certification, and the only one who practices west of Colorado.

Dr. Nicola Pusterla hopes to soon become the 18th. He is currently in the process of acquiring his equine dentistry board certification. Dr. Pusterla, already board certified in large animal internal medicine, has a long-standing interest in equine dentistry and has been performing dental procedures for more than a decade.

Another UC Davis veterinarian interested in pursuing the equine certification is Dr. Colleen Geisbush, a 2nd year DOSS resident who will add an additional year to her 3-year residency. That 4th year will be spent entirely on equine cases in order for her to gain enough large animal experience to seek the additional equine certification.

Playing a large role in developing the equine dentistry program and supporting the advanced certification process was former Hospital Director Dr. David Wilson and DOSS faculty members Drs. Frank Verstraete and Boaz Arzi. 

Once certified, Dr. Pusterla will oversee training of veterinarians seeking the additional certification. He feels that small animal clinicians pursuing the equine certification will be a big step toward improving the future of equine dentistry.

“I’ve only trained in equine medicine, so that’s all I can offer,” said Dr. Pusterla. “But someone who has trained in small animals can bring an entirely different perspective to the table, and that’s where change happens.”

As a major part of a research-based university, the School of Veterinary Medicine is continually seeking ways to translate research into clinical applications and advancing those discoveries into cutting-edge procedures that benefit the hospital’s patients.

“Innovations in translational research and practical applications can only move forward when someone with outside thinking or training enters the picture and brings their different process,” added Dr. Pusterla. “There is much information, understanding, instrumentation, techniques, and treatment options in dentistry that we can translate from small animal to the equine side. It’s an exciting, expanding field.”

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