Build your dental program to between 8 – 10% of your veterinary practice gross fee income.
Below is a précis of the dental program that in the one-on-one practices that I work with, consistently, easily and successfully gets their dental income up to between 8% and 10% of gross fee income.
An untapped, currently unused and possibly even unrecognised market.
These are the grade one (and possibly grade 2) ‘dental cleaning and polishings’ that are normally ‘ignored’ or possibly told to ‘brush at home’ ‘give more raw chewy meat’ or possibly even ‘recommended’ to give some form of dental product
For this program to work, your staff need to understand the importance and seriousness of grade-one dental disease in the long-term health of every pet.
The staff need to be totally comfortable and on board here. Remember the clients will believe the staff more readily than they believe the Veterinarians. And, trust me, the client WILL ask the staff for a ‘second’ opinion.
I find that in most practices, this process will take some three months of consistent training and exposure.
Critical to getting your staff on-board
- Get in external trainers (remember the old saying about a prophet in his/her own land), for 2-3 months (before you launch the program) to train and educate the staff in ALL matters dental
- Continue to do in-house training yourself until EVERYONE is ‘on the bus’
- Perform dental cleaning and polishing (at no charge) for the staff who have senior pets
- Get ‘buy-in’ by all staff wrt – early treatment leads to better patient outcomes (in general)
- This is excellent medicine
- This is proactive and in the patient’s best interests
- Consider hosting a ‘dental evening’ for your clients
- Stock dental products
- Have regular ‘dental’ displays in the reception area
- Have ‘dental’ displays and mentions in/on your digital photo screens
- Have dental articles on your website, in your blog and Facebook posts and in your newsletters and e-zines
- Develop a range of ‘dental’ handouts
Concurrently a focus for the client, on pet dentistry should become a cultural practice theme;
- See points above
- In your newsletter,
- On the website,
- In the Ezine,
- Regular displays in the reception area,
- Client seminars and information evenings,
- On the digital photo screen in reception, etc.
The clients need to be gently led, educated and encouraged.
Value add for the client
- Pre and post-digital images
- Dental charting
- Dental report card
- ‘bravery bandana’
- Go home product pack
- Anything else?
Phrases that can (must) be used
- Go and talk to local human dentists and see what phrases and terminology THEY use. Then use these or very similar words and phrases in your practice.
- Pus means pain
- Red means pain
- Just as in human dentistry……
- You see that yellow stain on the teeth……
- Let me ‘disclose’ the ‘plaque’ for you with this stain……
- Would you allow your pet to sleep on your pillow / on the bed / to kiss you?
- Smell his / her coat – what you are smelling is PUS – which s/he spread every time s/he grooms / cleans him/her-self
- Look at this standard grading chart, now let’s compare this chart to Fluffy’s teeth and gums – what grade do YOU think Fluffy is?
- Tooth/teeth cleaning and polishing…..
- Just like in people, dental disease in pets is linked to heart and kidney disease and eventually failure – this means earlier death
- We focus on long-term health care for your pet
- This is one of the most important things that you can do to increase your pet’s quality and length of life
- Everyone has $xx (your dental price)
- We made it so affordable that everyone can get it done
- We’ve made it so affordable that you can’t say no
- If you leave it this year and come back next year and the disease progresses as it normally does, then Fluffy will have grade 3 dental disease. At that stage, a similar procedure will cost you $……. So you HAVE to have it done now.
- Once started, the disease can never be stopped – however it can be managed. This is what we’re going to start to do today.
Who’s In Charge?
Someone needs to be in charge of this process. This must NOT be the practice owner or practice manager (preferably). This can be very satisfactorily run by a nurse/technician.
Targets to be set for the program
Current dental numbers and revenue (both as dollars and cents and as a percentage of practice income – by individual veterinarians and as a whole) need to be measured.
This is for ‘dentistry’ as such and food and ancillary products as well.
Then both short-term and long-term goals and targets can be set.
Suggestions here include;
- The trebling of dental income as well as increasing food and ancillary sales by 30% within 3 months of starting the process.
- By 12 months dentistry should form 8%-10% of practice income, as a minimum.
Are there going to be individual or Team based rewards or both?
I suggest as a minimum that there be Team based rewards predicated on total dental dollar income for a one-month period. This can be used initially as a very quick, easy-to-calculate, measure of success.
A team dinner-out can be a suitable initial 3-month reward.
After a few months, once the new habit patterns are formed, the rewards should become more intermittent and less frequent. Otherwise, they become regarded as a ‘given’ or possibly a ‘right’
This is another CRITICAL step.
The grade 3 and grade 4 dentals can be as much as you’d like them to be and feel ethically comfortable with.
The grade one (and possibly grade two) dentals need to be highly affordable for the ‘average’ client and fit within their monthly disposable household budget.
Based on research and experience I have suggested pricing that I know works for the practice, and for the client and that leads to super high compliance. I’m happy to share that information – however not on this forum here as I need to explain the client mindset and the research behind the data.
Remember too that in order for this process to work, it must be affordable to the client. We are looking at most patients having annual or possibly even bi-annual (if needed) cleaning and polishing. So, high compliance and lower profit per unit sale will result in an excellent income stream – as well of course in better patient care and outcomes.
- At the consultation, the Veterinarian discovers grade 1 dental disease. S/he uses the phrases above and either introduces the client to the dental nurse who in more detail explains the consequences of dental disease and why treatments is necessary now or s/he does this himself.
- Intravenous operative fluids and pre-anaesthetic blood tests are advised and discussed.
- On the day of the procedure, the patient arrives and is admitted (hopefully), by the dental nurse performing the procedure. The client is rung or texted with the blood results prior to the pet going to surgery.
- The procedure is performed. Pre and post-procedural photos are taken to go home with the patient.
- The owner is advised as the pet goes into recovery “So that you can relax”.
- A discharge appointment is scheduled with the owner / dental nurse for the afternoon.
- The patient is discharged, the dental report card is presented and a brief discussion of what transpired is given to the owner. The patient is complimented for his/her bravery, etc. Another appointment is scheduled for seven days later.
- At the revisit, the dental nurse details the products, foods, etc. that are available and the lifestyle choices that can be made. At this stage, a check sheet must be used in order to ensure that s/he remembers to detail everything available to help that particular patient.
- An appointment is now made with the owner for a revisit in six months’ time.
Again KPIs for this revisit booking rate need to be set. A minimum of 85% is acceptable.
For those clients who do not book, the nurse will schedule a reminder phone call to book this appointment.
At this meeting, if the dental disease is back then a dental cleaning and polishing is once again scheduled and the process is as above.
If the teeth are fine, then the client is advised that s/he will be seen again at the next annual health check and vaccination.
Where products are sold (above), the dental nurse must follow through and ensure that the client is compliant. Obtain permission to do this early on. With food ring in 2-3 days to see how things are going and then calculate when the first bag is about to run out and ring and check that the owner has actually used it all up as she should have to organize the delivery of another bag or whatever.
This last point is that once the practice learns to start educating the client from the first time they bring the puppy or kitten in, the easier this whole process becomes. This is because the client has already been trained in what is going to happen and how important dental disease is.