How to Become a Board-Certified Veterinary Dentist

how to become a veterinary dentist

How to Become a Board-Certified Veterinary Dentist

How does a veterinarian become a board-certified veterinary dentist? It is a bit of a long answer that I will try to condense in a few paragraphs. 

A Passion for Pet Dental Health

First and foremost, a veterinarian must be passionate about and firmly believe in the tenants of veterinary dentistry. They believe that dental disease, particularly periodontal disease, is the most common disease entity in all of veterinary medicine. Offering quality veterinary dental skills allows them to provide what has become the minimum standard of care in our profession. They believe that treating dental disease has a profound impact on pets by drastically relieving pain and improving their quality of life. Not only do their patients have a better life, but the pet owner has a better quality of life in caring for their beloved pets. 

Acceptance to an Approved Residency Program

A veterinarian who is interested in becoming a board-certified veterinary dentist must apply and be accepted into an approved residency program through the American Veterinary Dental College ( Having multiple years of experience in general practice with extensive continuing education course work in veterinary dentistry improves their chances of acceptance. 

The competition for these positions is intense with only 63 programs world-wide. All but 5 of these programs are in the United States. Acceptance to one of these programs requires the candidate to relocate to the residency location if they do not already live there. 

A Commitment to the Intensive AVDC Program 

This is not an online or weekend course! The AVDC program is three years long and requires the dental resident to assist or perform a minimum of 500 cases broken down into multiple categories, including periodontal and oral surgery, orthodontics, endodontics, prosthodontics and oral medicine. A minimum of 120 hours working directly with other veterinary specialists in the disciplines of radiology, surgery and anesthesiology are required. The most challenging aspect of the 3-year program is the writing and acceptance of multiple peer-reviewed articles with the goal of publication in the Journal of Veterinary Dentistry or a journal of comparable high standards. 

Once all of these requirements are met and accepted by the AVDC Credentials Committee the resident is “board eligible” and has earned the privilege to “sit” for boards. Throughout the time of moving towards Credentials, the resident must be committed to reading and studying a huge amount of literature covering veterinary dentistry that includes hundreds of medical journals and textbooks. As you can tell, this is a full-time job plus nights and weekends! 

Pass the Rigorous Board Examination

The AVDC board examination has gained a reputation for being one of the most rigorous specialty examinations in the veterinary profession. This challenging test has only a 33% first-time pass rate and is divided into 2 phases. Phase I is what previously was referred to as “the bench” and “written” portions of the exam. This test is over 2 days. If a candidate passes Phase I, they have earned the right to take the Phase II examination. 

The final test is administered usually 6-7 months later at the Oquendo Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. This rigorous test is over 2 days and requires the candidate to perform multiple procedures over all the disciplines noted above in a limited period of time. The procedures are graded by multiple different proctors who are already boarded veterinary dentists and active members in the college. “Stressful” is an understatement when taking these examinations! 

Become One of the Few in the World

Once a candidate passes these challenging tests, they have become a board-certified diplomate of the American Veterinary Dental College. They have demonstrated a proficiency in veterinary dentistry that has placed them in a group of specialists who have reached the highest standards of veterinary dental skills. They truly have earned the right to be called a “specialist” as one of just over 200 veterinary dentists in the world. They have much to be proud of! 

Board-Certified Veterinary Dentists in Colorado Springs

At Animal Dental Care and Oral Surgery, we believe in offering the highest care possible to your companion animals. We have offices in Colorado Springs, Castle Rock and Loveland, Colorado. 3 of our Doctors of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) are active, AVDC Board-Certified Veterinary Dentists and two are currently in the middle of their three-year residency to become certified. There are only 11 board-certified veterinary dentists in all of Colorado. 

Veterinary Dental CE Courses

With our specialties, we are passionate about educating veterinarians and vet techs in the basics of veterinary dentistry. As we mentioned above, if you are interested in applying to a residency program, extensive continuing education course work in veterinary dentistry can improve your chances of acceptance. Check out our vet dental courses today!