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Creating the perfect home dental program for your veterinary clients

Posted in Festival of All Things Dental @ Jul 31st 2014 - By Dr Liz Chmurycz, Russell Vale Animal Clinic
The Perfect Home Dental Care Program

80% of pets over 3 years have dental disease & only 15% of owners brush their pet's teeth - so now is the time for a home dental program that works!

The dental stream at the AVA conference 2014 covered the usual dental topics such as “tips on extractions” and the not so common topics, such as the teething problems of the young. It even covered the latest information on gingivostomatitis, and tooth resorption.

The feline tooth resorption lecture gave the tantalising hint of the possibility of teeth repair in early cases, if it is identified and the area is kept clean.  Whilst I was waiting for my train home, I saw on twitter that the possibility of using laser to repair enamel damage.

Tantalising what the future may hold for us.

One of the sessions focused on THE most important topic, which is 'Creating a Home Dental Program that works'. It was the “really works” that drew me in, as even in this day and age, the statistics of pets with dental disease still stands at 80% of pets, 3 years of age or older have dental disease.

If there was only ever one take home message from this session, it was “Toothbrushing is still the best long term thing you can do for your pet.”

We know that, on average, about 15% of owners brush their pet's teeth, and even fewer are doing it consistently. 

During the conference, I twittered this statement, and from twitterland, a reply came back that said “I don’t have the time. I have enough things to do.”  

This is a real dilemma faced by many pet owners.

How long should it take to brush your pet's teeth?

Brushing your pet’s teeth should only take a minute or two, and can be done before feeding, before a walk or any consistent daily time that you spend with your pet. It shouldn’t be a chore – it should be fun.  

How many vet’s pets have their teeth brushed daily?  I’ll raise my hand and say “Aye”, as did Dr Salter, who brushes his dog, Hunter’s teeth every morning before their walk.  

You need to show people how to do it 

It's not just about handing them a handout.  You need to believe that it is the absolute best thing for that pet, because, simply, it is.  It starts by getting the pet used to having one or two teeth touched each day, then building up till you are able to touch all of them.  Then slowly introducing a tooth brush (with some tooth paste or without), and again start tooth by tooth.

Toothbrushing should take 1-2 minutes at most, as overbrushing can cause enamel damage. Coupled with a VOHC (veterinary oral health council) approved diet, and all pets are on the way to changing future statistics of dental disease.

But it doesn’t just end there.  A home dental care program is not a passive, “here is a handout, here is how you do it, see you in 12 months” kind of deal, but it is a genuine dental follow up whenever the owner may need it (to tweak how they are doing it), and definitely a well check examination each 3 months.  Vienna Road Veterinary Hospital instituted such a program over 10 years ago, and their tooth brushing compliance is at 75%! 

Having regular get-together’s or “toothbrushing parties” will help clients know that they are not alone in ensuring their pet’s well being.

In short

1.       Have a specific written program and present it properly

2.       Invest in dental radiology

3.       Ensure all year round free dental checks

4.       Recommend VOHC dental friendly diets

5.       Be consistent

When you see happy pet owners and pets with healthy mouths, then all of your hard work in re-energizing your dental program is worth it. 

If you'd like to ask Dr Liz a question about her home dental program - just add it to the comments section below.

Dr Liz Chmurycz is a  companion animal veterinarian, based at Russell Vale Animal Clinic, in Wollongong, Australia. As a solo vet and business owner, she is also a mother of four children. She is passionate about the veterinary profession, and the animals she sees. 

You can read Dr Liz's Blog here: Dr Liz...the vet from Russell Vale Animal Clinic

Like 'Russell Vale Animal Clinic' on Facebook, click here to follow Dr Liz on Twitter - Russell Vale Vets 


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