It Can be an Ethical Dilemma

It Can Be an Ehical Dilemma, as it appears in the ColoVMA VOICE, 2013 Issue #2

Rebecca Rose, CVT

Your veterinary technicians, your team members who have graduated

from an AVMA-accredited program, are not taught how to

perform a veterinary dental extraction while in college. In one of

the textbooks for veterinary technician programs, Principles and

Practices of Veterinary Technology, the sentence related to dental extractions

states this: “Most states consider extractions oral surgery

that must be performed by the veterinarian.”


While attending an AVMA-accredited program for veterinary

technicians, it is explained that veterinarians are educated and

licensed to diagnose, prescribe, and perform surgery. When a

veterinarian delegates the extraction of a tooth to a veterinary

technician within the state of Colorado, this is when the ethical

dilemma may occur. “Veterinary technicians are placed in the

middle of the equation when their veterinarian asks them to perform

a dental extraction,” said CVMA president, Dr. Randa Mac-

Millan, while speaking to a room full of veterinarians and a few

healthcare team members at the BIG Ideas Forum | Spring 2013

(see page 27).


The office of the Colorado Association of Certified Veterinary

Technicians (CACVT) often receives phone calls from its members

asking about this specific dental extraction issue—and they

are informed that dental extractions are considered surgery. The

CACVT encourages technicians asked to perform such procedures

to have a conversation with their veterinarian.


I personally know of veterinary technicians who have chosen

not to work at a hospital because during the interview process

they were informed that veterinary technicians perform the dental

extractions during dental procedures. That’s a tough place to

be, in need of a job and making a conscious choice not to work

because of an ethical dilemma.


Here is yet another statistic to consider. There are roughly

80,200 veterinary technicians within the United States (Bureau

of Labor Statistics 2010). Less than 50 veterinary technicians

throughout the U.S. are credentialed as a Veterinary Technician

Specialist in Dentistry. (To learn more, visit the Academy

of Veterinary Dental Technicians at

When asking Dr. Ed Eisner (Advisory Committee member on the

AVDT) about the training of dental extractions within the specialty,

he stated, “Extractions are considered surgery and are not

within the scope of practice for veterinary technicians.”


According to the State Board of Veterinary Medicine, only

a veterinarian can perform the following: diagnosis, prescription,

surgery, or initiating treatment. The Veterinary Practice Act

clearly states that “veterinary medicine” includes veterinary surgery,

obstetrics, dentistry, and all other branches or specialties

of animal medicine and that “no person may practice veterinary

medicine in this state if the person is not a licensed veterinarian.”

The point is this: before you place your veterinary technician

in a compromising position of performing a veterinary dental

extraction, ask yourself the following: Who is properly educated

and licensed to perform this oral surgery? And, even more importantly,

who is liable and responsible for that procedure being done

in your practice?

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3 Responses to It Can be an Ethical Dilemma

  1. Mary says:

    I often wonder about human dentists that come into a veterinary practice (by request of the owner veterinarian) to perform a specialized dental procedure such as a root canal on an animal and how that can’t be out of scope for the dentist who is not a licensed veterinarian yet practicing veterinary dentistry.
    Anyone have an answer?

    • Rebecca Rose says:

      Mary, that is a great question! I believe it would depend upon practice acts. My gut feeling is, when working under the direct supervision of a veterinarian, it is allowed. Are you in Alaska? Are there any statements in those practice acts that may indicate differently.

      I will post your question on my business Facebook page and see if there are any other comments.

      Thanks for posting! RR

  2. Mary Berg, RVT, VTS(Dentistry) says:

    As a member of the Academy of Veterinary Dental Technicians I wanted to point out that technicians should not be preforming dental extractions. A VTS in Dentistry does not allow a technician to perform any of the procedures reserved for veterinarians, surgery, prescribing drugs, initiating treatment or diagnosis.

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