Identify potential health impacts of equine oral conditions

This Unit of Competency covers the process of evaluating the anatomy and physiology of the equine head, with specific reference to how the teeth and dental related structures, can affect the health of horses.


The Unit is applicable to the equine industry where it may be necessary to provide dental care to ensure the health and efficient physiological function of horses.In addition to legal and ethical responsibilities, all Units of Competency in the ACM10 Animal Care and Management Training Package have the requirement for animals to be handled gently and calmly. The individual is required to exhibit appropriate care for animals so that stress and discomfort are minimised.


There are no pre-requisite Units for this competency standard.

Elements and Performance Criteria



1 Evaluate the impact of dental and oral health on digestion and nutrient absorption

1.1 Structures of the head that relate to mastication and digestion are identified and described

1.2 Functions of head and oral structures are determined in relation to digestion and general health

1.3 Relationship between muscular structure, dental occlusion and masticatory action is identified

1.4 Changes in the skull due to age, disease and injury are determined

1.5 Other factors affecting digestive processes and digestive efficiency are defined and identified.

1.6 Consequences of poor dental and oral health on nutrient absorption are defined and identified

2 Evaluate the impact of dental and oral conditions on the health of the horse

2.1 Dental and oral trauma is identified and described

2.2 Dental and oral related conditions are identified and described

2.3 Dental congenital and genetic abnormalities are identified and described.

2.4 Other abnormal conditions are identified and described

2.5 Potential impact and consequences on general health of dental injuries, diseases, dental abnormalities and other conditions are defined

3 Identify features of head and neck structures that may relate to dental functions, oral functions and general health

3.1 Soft tissue structures of the head and neck are identified and the impact of disease or injury on dental and general health is evaluated

3.2 Bony structures of the skull and neck are identified and impact of disease or injury on dental or general health is evaluated

3.3 Structures of the circulatory system of the head and neck are identified and the impact of disease or injury on dental or general health is evaluated

3.4 Structures of the nervous system in the head and neck are identified and impact of disease or injury on dental and general health is evaluated

4 Evaluate the impact of unskilled or inappropriate dental care on the health of the horse

4.1 Potential consequences of the absence of dental care on the health of the horseare evaluated

4.2 Consequences of unskilled or inappropriate dental techniques are identified and defined

4.3 Implications of leaving tooth fragments behind, post extraction are defined

4.4 Consequences of excessive filing (floating) of teeth and the impact on the masticatory ability is defined

4.5 Other possible causes of dental damage or disease are identified and consequences are defined

Required Skills

Required skills include:

Ability to:

analyse and solve problems using available information and resources including recording information and prioritising daily tasks

apply interpersonal skills to work with others and relate to people from a range of cultural, social and religious backgrounds and with a range of physical and mental abilities

communicate effectively with others, including questioning, active listening, asking for clarification and consulting with or seeking advice from other appropriate service providers

comply with animal welfare legislation, animal care guidelines, state and territory veterinary surgeons or practitioners legislation and regulations, relevant equine dental association code of conduct, equine dental service provider accreditation requirements and standards

condition score the horse

employ safe and environmentally responsible organisational systems and procedures when working with and handling horses

follow sequenced written instructions, record accurately and legibly information collected and select and apply procedures to a range of defined tasks

identify evidence of conditions, practices, devices or structures which have been contributing to pain or distress to the horse, while at liberty (grazing/feeding) or under restraint (handling, riding, driving)

identify potential causes of poor condition and behaviour issues in the horse related to dental care or dental condition

interpret behavioural signals of the horse

maintain the highest standards of hygiene and infection control at all times to reduce the risk of infection and cross-infection considering zoonotic and exotic disease possibilities (biosecurity)

prepare and maintain equine records using appropriate terminology

read, understand and follow required policies and procedures, including OHS, infection control and waste management

use safe manual handling techniques and equipment

use safe, hygienic and environmentally friendly waste handling and disposal procedures.

Required knowledge includes:

Knowledge of:

anatomy and physiology of the equine head and oral structures including features and functions of the equine mouth and teeth including normal and abnormal functions

anatomical directional terminology

appropriate industry and state/territory equine dental codes of conduct and standards of practice

causes and consequences of horse ailments, infections and injuries relevant to dental care

contagious disease symptoms, prophylaxis and biosecurity protocols

established dental terminology related to equine dental care

features of correctly formed, healthy and well-maintained equine dental and oral structures

indicators of horse distress, illness and disease

influence of different diets and husbandries on mastication and oral health

normal and abnormal features of equine dental and oral structures including physiology and effect of diet

nutritional requirements and digestive processes of the horse

principles of animal welfare

relevant legislation, regulations and codes of practice, including OHS, animal welfare and ethics, veterinary practice, restricted dental practices and waste disposal

relevant state or territory legislation covering the supply, possession and use of restricted and controlled substances

safe work practices

techniques and instruments used to provide equine dental care

workplace hygiene standards (biosecurity) including: disinfectants, cleaning agents and techniques, cleaning and appropriate disinfection or sterilisation of equipment, materials and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Evidence Required

The evidence guide provides advice on assessment and must be read in conjunction with the performance criteria, required skills and knowledge, range statement and the Assessment Guidelines for the Training Package.

Overview of assessment

Critical aspects for assessment and evidence required to demonstrate competency in this Unit

The evidence required to demonstrate competence in this Unit must be relevant to workplace operations and satisfy all of the requirements of the performance criteria, required skills and knowledge and the range statement of this Unit. Assessors should ensure that candidates can:

describe the process of mastication and nutrient absorption and the impact of poor occlusion or masticatory action on the health of the horse

condition score the horse

evaluate a range of ailments, diseases and injuries that could occur as a result of unskilled or inappropriate dental care

identify evidence of unskilled or inappropriate dental care.

The skills and knowledge required to identify potential health impacts of equine oral conditions must be transferable to a range of work environments and contexts and include the ability to deal with unplanned events.

Context of and specific resources for assessment

Assessment for this Unit is to be practical in nature and will be most appropriately assessed in an equine dental workplace or in a situation that reproduces normal work conditions.

There must be access to a range of horses and anatomical models and the relevant equipment and resources to enable one to demonstrate competence.

Method of assessment

To ensure consistency in performance, competency should be demonstrated, to industry standards, on more than two occasions over a period of time in order to cover a variety of circumstances, cases and responsibilities and over a number of assessment activities.

The assessment strategy must include assessment of competency in a work environment. Suggested strategies for this Unit are:

written and oral assessment of candidate’s required knowledge

observed, documented and first-hand testimonial evidence of candidate’s application of practical tasks

simulation exercises that reproduce normal work conditions

case studies

third-party evidence

workplace documentation.

This Unit may be assessed in a holistic way with other units of competency relevant to the industry sector, workplace and job role.

Guidance information for assessment

Assessment methods should reflect workplace demands (e.g. literacy and numeracy demands) and the needs of particular target groups (e.g. people with disabilities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, women, people with a language background other than English, youth and people from low socio-economic backgrounds).

Range Statement

The range statement relates to the Unit of Competency as a whole. It allows for different work environments and situations that may affect performance. Bold italicised wording, if used in the performance criteria, is detailed below. Essential operating conditions that may be present with training and assessment (depending on the work situation, needs of the candidate, accessibility of the item, and local industry and regional contexts) may also be included.

Structures of the head include:




premolars and molars

salivary glands

cavities, including sinuses

lymph nodes


major muscles of the head

major arteries and veins

sensory and motor nerves.

Functions of head and oral structures may include:

prehension of food

mastication of food bolus

ingestion of food bolus

production and effects of saliva.

Consequences of poor dental and oral health on nutrient absorption may include:

weight loss

decreased resistance to illness


passage of undigested food

failure to thrive including:

poor coat condition

poor body score

poor hoof health.

Dental and oral trauma may include:

loose, fractured or damaged teeth, fractured tooth roots, dental alveoli and cranial bones

Dental and oral related conditions may include:

calculus ("tartar")


cementum, dentine and enamel defects

retained deciduous teeth or tooth fragments

endodontic disease

periodontal disease

nasal discharge

sinus infections.

Dental congenital and genetic abnormalities may include:

abnormal tooth eruption angle or position

absence of teeth (oligodontia)

cementum or enamel hypoplasia


parrot mouth (brachygnathia)

sow/monkey mouth (prognathia)

supernumerary teeth

wry nose (campylorrhinus lateralis).

Other abnormal conditions may include:

fractured maxilla or mandible

fractured pre maxilla or rostral mandible

osteopathies such as bighead

restricted lateral excursion of mandible

restricted rostro-caudal movement


Potential impact on general health of dental injuries, diseases, dental abnormalities and other conditions may include:

abnormal temperature

choke, quidding or other masticatory anomalies



facial distortion and deformity

head shaking syndrome (excessive shaking of the head)

inability to masticate effectively

metastatic transmission of organisms

reluctance to accept a bit, bridle or head collar

stomach ulcers

supereruption of teeth.

Potential consequences related to no dental care may include:

behavioural problems


gastrointestinal tract impaction and/or colic


decreased resistance to illness


failure to thrive

inability to achieve soft lateral or vertical flexion of the horse

lacerated oral tissue


resisting bit, tack or riding aids


shortened life and use

supereruption of teeth

weight loss and other bodily signs of ill thrift.

Consequences of unskilled or inappropriate dental techniques may include:

absence of appropriate referral

bony fractures



inability to masticate effectively after dental procedure

inability to graze


neglect due to the absence of appropriate care by owner or carer

nerve damage

psychological trauma

pulp inflammation or pulp necrosis (tooth death) due to pulp exposure or thermal or mechanical damage

retained tooth or root fragments post extraction

retention of sharp enamel buccal and lingual points

severing of nerves or blood vessels, such as palatine artery

soft tissue damage

tooth fracture from speculum use

fracture of the pre maxilla or rostral mandible from incorrect speculum use

treatment of the incorrect teeth

untreated pathology including periodontal disease.


Equine dentistry

Employability Skills

This Unit contains employability skills.

Licensing Information

Licensing, legislative, regulatory or certification requirements may apply to this Unit. Therefore, it will be necessary to check with the relevant state or territory regulators for current licensing, legislative or regulatory requirements before undertaking this Unit.