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To make your veterinary dental program work - your team must believe!

Posted in Festival of All Things Dental @ Sep 11th 2014 - By Dr Natasha Wilks, High Performance Vets
Dental Xray

Before you can successfully promote any service in your veterinary practice, your whole team must believe in its value. 

This ensures a consistent message to clients about the need and value of the service.

In our practice, we are 100% committed to dentistry.  Every patient is evaluated and we educate the owners about dentistry and the importance of healthy, clean teeth and regular examinations. 

I never used to be like this though.  Years ago, I would flick off the tartar and tell owners to wait for it to get worse before we performed a dental as I was uncomfortable with the cost and I disliked dentistry.  Now, I’m horrified that I used to say that.

We are so passionate about dentistry as a result of the horrid mouths we have seen but also because of what we have found in pets whose mouths appeared normal.

I recently saw a small dog with a tiny amount of tartar.  What I noticed when I was intubating the dog was the significant halitosis.  We found a significant pocket on the lower canine that was full of grass and it required removal.  I could not see this with the dog awake.  I was so appreciative that the owner complied with our recommendation; otherwise this dog would have been in chronic discomfort for a longer period of time.

There have been many other cases like this over the years where what appeared to be a simple scale and polish under anaesthetic has found major pathology. 

We use these cases to educate the team and remind ourselves of the importance of the dental examination under anaesthetic. 

I know there are clinics that aren’t proactive with dentistry (as I used to be).  There are many reasons for this disinterest such as poor equipment, lack of time, lack of skills in dentistry, client disinterest, cost, inadequate team interest or engagement.

What I want these clinics to realise is that there are so many pets living with chronic discomfort as a result of their teeth.  As we all know, just because they are eating doesn’t mean they aren’t in pain.  We’ve all had sore teeth or painful gums and kept eating around it waiting for the discomfort to go away!

Educate and work with your team to focus on helping your patients live with a discomfort free mouth and they will recognise the importance of dentistry in your practice. 

It is very important that the whole veterinary team is engaged and on board.  The focus shouldn’t be solely on the scale and polish as we may end up with the same result as vaccinations where clients stopped coming when they didn’t think their pets needed them.  In this case we should have been communicating to clients the importance of the veterinary examination that came with the vaccination. 

The focus for dentistry should be on the dental examination under general anaesthetic looking for any pathology or indication of discomfort and then a scale and polish will be performed.  This will increase the value for clients.

Educate your clients about the importance of regular dental examinations for their pets.  If your clients haven’t heard this before, it may take time for them to be engaged with this message but it will happen.

I appreciate that dentistry can be frustrating at times especially when clients don’t understand the significance of dental pathology and may complain about the cost.

It is our job however to educate clients and explain the importance of dentistry and the value to their pet. 

This is why you must believe in dentistry because if you don’t..... neither will your clients!

If you have any questions for Natasha about getting your team on board & developing a successful dental program just ask her in the comments section below..

Dr Natasha Wilks BVSc DipCoaching is a Veterinarian and Coach.  Natasha is the founder of High Performance Vets and works with Veterinarians to improve their well-being and help them succeed in their career.

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