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How I stopped the ‘routine dentals’ & started to get excited over the funky stuff

Posted in Festival of All Things Dental @ Jul 25th 2013 - By Dr Liz Chmurycz, Russell Vale Animal Clinic
Dr Liz Chmurycz

There are no longer any such thing as 'routine dentals' in my veterinary practice - what about yours?

As Pet Dental Month is upon us, vets, like you, all over Australia are busy 'flipping the lip' of a pet on the table, saying “Ooh, your pet needs a dental” with a smile to the loving pet owner.  There is a lot of information out there on how to transform that line to ensure the owner commits to the ongoing dental program their pet needs.  I certainly have nothing to add to that.  But before the busy month of 'lip flipping' occurs, it is a good time to reflect on your own practice’s 'dental' set up, otherwise known as your Standard of Care.

As you read this, remember that I write as a solo general vet practitioner, who knows only too well the constraints of balancing client expectations, equipment costs, and time.  

As a solo vet, time is my biggest foe.

As an aside, the word 'dentals' or the phrase 'routine dental'  is often given a bad rap as being non descriptive of what the procedure is, but the undeniable truth is… when you tell your pet owner that their pet needs a “dental”, they understand what that means. Whereas, if you said “Your pet needs a COHAT[1] or Oral ATP[2] they may look at you like you have two heads.  However, I would still go on to explain to the pet owner what 'my dental' includes using the COHAT terminology, as I know it may differ substantially from what a 'dental' may mean in the pet owner’s head.   The change has to start somewhere.

In this day and age, the 'dental' is not the 'grease and oil change' of yesteryear (terminology from my first boss).  It is not for cosmetics, and you definitely should not look at it solely as a money making venture.  These do not fill a professional soul. Of course, performing dentistry makes you money, and performing it well makes you more.  But identifying disease, treating that, and sending a healthier pet home, is professionally and personally satisfying. There is no such thing as a 'routine' dental, and if you find you are using these words in your practice, then you really need to re-think your practice’s dental setup, because you are missing out on some really, exciting (which I call 'funky')  stuff.

The single most important piece of equipment that has transformed my 'routine dental' into an exciting exploration into the mouth required a huge investment of $75.00[3] in 2005. Then in 2009 we went digital, which is obviously a bigger investment (no more chemicals, no more film).   The driver for change in 2005 is complicated, but started the review of all of my core services.  And where dentistry was concerned, that meant full mouth intra-oral radiographs in every patient.

This was then tweaked to meet my level of comfort when missing disease (which is not high).

So my dental Standard of Care now includes:

  • up to 4 xrays for grade 2 dentals, and
  • full mouth xrays for grade 3 and 4  dentals, and
  • xrays when I find teeth missing during desexings (searching for the unerupted teeth) or significant gingivitis (especially young cats with juvenile periodontitis).
  • recommending dental xrays in any other patients when indicated.

Hopefully, I have inspired you to think about whether $85.00[4] is within your budget to start doing intra-oral xrays, and whether your patients are worth that expense.  Are you ready to transform your ideas on what your practice’s routine 'dental' should be?  


[1] Comprehensive Oral Health Assessment and Treatment

[2] Oral Assessment and Treatment Plan

[3] $75.00 was for a box of Size 2 film from K9 gums. I bought a box of Size 2 and Size 4 Films. I used my normal Xray machine, and normal developer and fixer.

[4] 2013 price for Size 2 film.

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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