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Biting Back: Dental Hygiene

By: Laurie Houghton

Did you know that February is officially National Pet Dental Health month? Are you marketing this idea to your clients? According to the American Veterinary Dental College, periodontal disease is the most common clinical condition occurring in adult dogs and cats, and is entirely preventable*. We can take our own dental hygiene seriously but often our pet's teeth are an afterthought, and only get attention when there is a problem. Unfortunately that may be too late to prevent serious problems which can impact a pet's quality of life.

Educate clients to understand pet dental hygiene. Here are a few tips to help integrate dental health into your hospital 12 months of the year:

Talk about it and make it routine

"When was 'Sophie's' last dental treatment?" Perform a dental exam at every visit and be sure to tell the client what you did and why. "I checked 'Sophie's' teeth and gums today, and I'm happy to tell you that her mouth looks very healthy. Keep up the good work cleaning her teeth at home."

Market the service you provide

Let your clients know that dental exams are important and add them to any chart review, especially when the exam is a healthy pet visit. This will give you the opportunity to discuss the importance of dental health. The principles of good oral hygiene and dental health are the same for dogs and cats as for people. Remind clients that "Sophie" can't speak up when her teeth hurt and it may take months for the problem to be noticeable...often when she stops eating due to the pain.

Stress the benefits

Everyone on your team should know all the benefits of dental treatment (prevents heart disease, eliminates pain, improves breath) and be able to speak about them fluently with clients. A proactive approach will prevent serious dental disease and potentially loss of teeth. Remind clients that their pets can be very good at hiding pain - they might never know that their pet has a serious dental problem until it's very advanced, and very costly.

Bundle dental in yearly packages

Dental exams should not be a discretionary extra. Demonstrate to the client that they are essential by including them in the packages along with exams, vaccines and flea prevention. Reiterate to clients that teeth wear out and senior pets are especially vulnerable to dental disease.

Conduct periodic campaigns

Don't wait until National Dental Health Month to reach out to your clients. Select several months in the year when you will focus on dentistry. Set measurable goals for these one month campaigns, create a budget, write and role play scripts, create materials such as informational emails, posters or giveaways and evaluate and celebrate your success with your team when the month is over.

And don't forget to educate your clients about home oral hygiene. You may want to create a handout "how to" for dogs and cats. Include pet specific tooth brushes or dental wipes, and consider selling them in your hospital. When "Sophie's" guardian comes back to refill a prescription or their monthly flea treatment, they may find it convenient to also purchase dental supplies. Training your staff to "ask" will increase acceptance and awareness, resulting in more opportunities for dental procedures year round and enhance dental health for your patients.


About the Author

Laurie Houghton, a Practice Management Advisor at Wells Fargo Practice Finance, has fourteen years of experience as a practice management consultant, clinical experience as a dental hygienist, an MBA in management and a certificate in mediation. This gives her an unusually broad base of experience with which to prepare doctors for their transition to ownership, and to help doctors diagnose and remedy practice problems with creative options. Laurie can be reached at 1-800-377-7340 or laurie.houghton@wellsfargo.com.

View all articles by Laurie Houghton

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All financing is subject to credit approval.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

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