Emphasize the importance of dentistry in your veterinary practice
In the past year, I've attended three dentistry seminars (big pat on the back). I've forced myself to do this because I'm trying to figure out how to make dentistry a true profit center for our hospital locations. In short, what I've seen is a transition from performing neuters and spays every morning to doing "dentals" and dental procedures. We are now often booked out a month or two on our dentistry, which is incredible—in theory.
But here's what I struggle with: I remember the day, not too many years ago, when our technicians cleaned the teeth and we popped back between appointments or surgeries to examine the oral cavity and quickly pulled the loose teeth. Now it seems we have a doctor dedicated to dentistry and surgery from 9am to 1pm.
This may be fine if we find dental pathology and a procedure to be done, but that's not always the case. The flip side can easily happen as well—we end up with an involved case or two and have a hard time finishing in a time frame that allows us to see other clients.We all want to do more and better dentistry, but we don't want veterinarians to do just cleanings and "bandage" dentistry. Here are a couple strategies we're trying:
> Pre-educating the clients. We are doing a better job letting clients know that when we do a cleaning, we do an oral exploratory. We often find disease, and they need to be prepared for that. We can't offer a solid treatment plan before we explore the oral cavity, and this often involves radiographs. There could be no additional charges, or it could be $800 or more. We talk to clients early to prepare them for the potential of more time and money involved in their pet's dental health. We don't want surprises, and we don't want clients to feel pressured to say "yes" just because the pet is under anesthesia. Based on my experiences with clients, we can often safely schedule a follow-up second procedure from one to six months out to allow them time to decide/budget the additional procedure.
> Producing treatment plans faster. Once the oral cavity has been assessed, we quickly call the clients with an update on the condition and the potential cost. Most of us think we've done a good job of discussing this with the client when we last saw them, but a face-to-face chat only lasts so long in the memory. My practices offer handouts when dental cleanings are scheduled that explain the process so they know that surgery may be recommended as well as what's involved and the potential cost.
Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board Member Dr. Jeff Rothstein, MBA, is president of the Progressive Pet Animal Hospitals and Management Group in Michigan.