Offer dentistry to combat the economy

Don't get down in the mouth. Stay positive, explore new services like dental care, and reap the benefits.
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Oct 22, 2008


Dr. Jeff Rothstein
Dental care is a huge opportunity for most veterinary practices, whether times are good or bad. Most practices derive only 2 percent to 4 percent of their revenue from dental services. But seeing as how we're pets' only dental providers, there's no reason that number can't be 15 percent of revenue or higher. I bought new dental equipment 18 months ago despite the horrid economy here in Michigan. It took a few months to get good at using it, but we do more dentistry now and the equipment quickly paid itself off. We need to begin to turn our practices into centers for dental excellence, but many of us lack the interest or skills to do so.

Create a practice-wide plan

To max out on dental care at your hospital, you need to invest in high-level dental equipment. You can't afford not to offer new services. High-speed drill units and dental radiography equipment are good places to start. You also need a well-organized dental marketing plan. Host a brainstorming session for the whole team to share ideas, then pick the top 10 ideas to implement. For example, you could:

  • Grade or score all patients' teeth and put the scores in patients' records.
  • Send clients home with a dental report card.
  • Show before and after dental pictures.
  • Send out dental reminders.

Set dental compliance goals for your team and track your weekly progress on a whiteboard. Create a culture where every month is dental month. Stay focused and promote dental work year-round, and revisit your dental plan every few months.

Another great thing about dentistry is the services that come along with it. For example, for senior pets, I perform a comprehensive blood and urine screen that also serves as the pet's annual health screen. I might also discuss taking radiographs to check for signs of arthritis while the pet is under anesthesia for dental work.

Turn off the skepticism

Some of you will ask, "Why all the fuss about dental care? I'm just happy if clients are getting the wellness basics. Now you expect me to sell more teeth cleanings?" Yes. Most practices have barely tapped the potential of what dentistry can do for them. And because fewer new clients are walking in the door these days, we need to provide more and better services to our existing clients. Our clients may skip their vacation this year, but most of them still want good preventive care for pets. It helps them avoid more costly problems down the road.

Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Dr. Jeff Rothstein, MBA, is president of The Progressive Pet Animal Hospitals and Management Group in Michigan. E-mail comments or questions to
or post your thoughts on the Community message boards at http://dvm360.com/. For more input from Dr. Jeff Rothstein on surviving a slowdown, visit http://dvm360.com/ and search for "Rothstein economy videos."