Why is the incidence of dental disease so high? Is it due to lack of compliance or the lack of education of the client about the importance of dentistry or a lack of education of the veterinary staff? In many practices, dentistry accounts for less than 10% of the gross income. When a proper dental program is in place, dentistry can contribute to an additional 40% of the overall income. Many practices and their clients’ pets would benefit from an emphasis on dentistry and the importance of a healthy oral cavity.
February is Dental Health Month for people and pets. How can you and your hospital take advantage of this national focus on dental health? Take time to write an article for the local newspaper, be on a radio talk show to volunteer to give presentations to local school children. When advising your clients to brush their pet’s teeth, demonstrate how to brush and point out that this activity can help build the bond between the pet and the owner.
Don’t just focus on dental care during the month of February, however. It is necessary to communicate the importance of dental treatment and home care in many ways throughout the entire year. Each visit, wellness or otherwise, should be an opportunity for a dental evaluation and home care recommendation. Soon the clients will understand the need for regular dental exams and cleanings. The veterinary community needs to change the vocabulary used when talking to pet parents. The terms dental disease, dental, or prophy are inaccurate and tend to lend an air on non-importance. Beginning using terms like infection and pain when discussing the need for a comprehensive Oral Assessment and Treatment.
It’s important for your staff to understand the importance of client education regarding dental care. Pet Parents must hear a message repeatedly to begin to understand the importance of dental care. Every member of the staff must be a part of the dental team because dentistry begins with the phone call taken by the receptionist. The technician meets the client in the exam room has another opportunity to speak with the client about dental care. The kennel staff handles the pet prior to and following the dental procedures or while boarding. The veterinarian then diagnoses and treats the dental problems. Each team member’s role is important. The understanding and performance of their role are critical to a successful dental practice.