7 steps to better veterinary dental recommendations

7 steps to better veterinary dental recommendations

Feeling tongue-tied when veterinary clients refuse dental treatment for their pets? Here's a mouthful of ideas on how to emphasize the importance of complete oral care.
Feb 05, 2015

Laura McLain
Mitsy is a 6-year-old Shih Tzu visiting your clinic for her annual wellness exam and vaccinations. On her physical exam, you note halitosis, dental calculus, gingivitis, and mandibular incisor mobility. You launch into your spiel about scheduling a professional dental cleaning, oral assessment, and treatment, and you ask your technician to prepare an estimate. How do Mitsy's owners respond?

A. "But last time she had her teeth cleaned at El Cheapo Animal Clinic, they only charged $80."

B. "I've had dogs all my life. They've never had their teeth cleaned, and they did just fine."

C. "My neighbor took her cat in for a dental procedure, and it died from the anesthetic."

D. "No, thanks. My groomer brushes Mitsy's teeth when she gets a haircut."

E. "OK, when should we schedule that?"

In a perfect world, clients would respond with E, but you most likely get answers A through D. After all, we as veterinarians understand the importance of comprehensive dental care for our patients, but how well do we convey that to clients?

Whether we call it a "dental," a "comprehensive oral health assessment and treatment" (COHAT), or an "oral assessment, treatment, and prevention" (ATP), we understand that the majority of pets need more than just a prophy. Quickly polishing patients' teeth can miss a multitude of hidden pathologies, from apical abscesses and resorptive lesions to dentigerous cysts and fractured roots. But when clients are bombarded with advertisements for "anesthesia-free" dentals and quoted $75 at the clinic down the street, they're understandably suspicious of our much-higher estimates for comprehensive care. Here are seven ways to explain the cost and importance of dental care to clients.