Create a thriving dental program in your veterinary practice

Consider these 10 tips to make dentistry urgent for your team members and for clients.
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Feb 01, 2013

1. Own the proper equipment. No one on your team will remain passionate about dentistry if your equipment is outdated or doesn't work well. An efficient high-speed drill and the ability to take radiographs are vital components to make dentistry work. In addition to a reliable scaler and polisher, air and water are nice to have.

2. Make routine dentistry affordable. This is a key to getting patients in before their mouths become problems. Three years ago, the percentage of our dental patients with at least one extraction was somewhere in the upper 80s. As a result, we lowered the price of our basic anesthesia with scaling and polishing package by more than $60 to incentivize clients to act sooner. In this case, volume can create profitability.

3. Make the pet owners look in their pet's mouth. And, if possible, make sure the younger family members are involved. Hearing that Fluffy's teeth have buildup is not the same as seeing it.

4. Tell pet owners about the risks of tartar buildup and gingivitis. Internal organ problems, tooth loss, mandibular fractures, and oral nasal fistulas are all things that can happen. Our greatest success has been with clients hoping to avoid a larger bill for an extended amount of work.

5. Price radiographs to make them affordable, and take them, take them, take them. Most of the problems in dogs and cats mouths aren't visible without radiographs. Taking films is important, but making sure the client sees them after the procedure is vital. It's impossible to ignore when it's there on the screen.

6. Make sure your veterinarian believes in dentistry. I pride myself on a tremendous amount of confidence from our clients, but nothing I could ever say can compare with these simple words from a doctor: "Fluffy needs to have a dental prophy, and she really needs it now."

7. Don't forget that cats are different. Cats tolerate much less tartar than dogs before it makes an impact in their lives. Cats suffer less from typical disease and more from resorbing teeth. Unexplained missing teeth, especially lower premolars, should be red flags.

8. Do follow-up calls. When we do these, nearly every client admits they had no idea that there was something wrong until they saw how their pet changed after the dental procedure. Hearing this reinforces our dedication to dentistry. Nothing we ever do will have the same high percentage of improvement.

9. Send out reminders. We remind based on oral exams and use a three-tier system to keep reminding.

10. Promote dentistry. We do a February promotion, but we start marketing in November. And we offer the promotion in January, February, and March. We also offer a special on cat dentistry in October.

Kyle Palmer, CVT, is a Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member and practice manager at Silver Creek Animal Clinic in Silverton, Ore. Palmer is pursuing his VTS in dentistry.