Promoting dentistry through client education (Proceedings)

Promoting dentistry through client education (Proceedings)

Aug 01, 2008
By staff

Oral disease is one of the most prevalent diseases in dogs and cats. 80% of adult dogs and 70% of adult cats have some form of oral disease. Dental problems are among the top three pet owners concerns in dogs and cats. Calculus and gingivitis are the most common conditions diagnosed by veterinarians in all ages of animals.

Why is the incidence of dental disease so high? Is it due to lack of compliance or the lack of educating the client about the importance of dentistry? Pet's living longer lives, is one reason that oral disease is more prevalent. We are already improving so many aspects of their lives, but dental care seems to still be lagging behind.

Unfortunately, veterinarians and veterinary technicians do not receive much training in dentistry while in school. Many practices don't put enough emphasis on dentistry and the importance of a healthy oral cavity. In many small animal practices, dentistry accounts for less than 10% of the gross income. When a proper dental program is in place, dentistry can contribute to an additional 40% of the overall income.

Companion animals have become an important part of our lives. Many people consider the pet a part of their family. This bond has been important to the veterinarian and his staff because clients are more readily interested in seeking care for their pets. It is essential that communication remains open between all parties. All members of the veterinary team must be excited and motivated and thus project that enthusiasm to the client. The veterinarian and his staff must educate the client about the need for dentistry and convince them of its importance. Statistics show that 25 percent of your clients will accept whatever you say immediately; another 60 percent will take a little time to accept your recommendations; the remaining 15 percent will not accept your suggestions.

As veterinary health professionals, it is our job to promote dentistry. How can we do this? Provide quality services and educating the client on the importance by advertising, dental report cards following examinations, giving out toothbrushes and sample packets The technician should be responsible for client education start this education process at the first puppy or kitten visit. Talk with them about the importance of good oral care by expressing the fact that the "mouth is a mirror" to the body. Give handouts explaining the relationship between oral disease and systemic health.

Many clients may be reluctant to have the dental procedure done for a variety of reasons. How do you convince them that if left untreated, gingivitis will progress to periodontal disease and possible systemic infection? It's often said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Use photographs, models and even videos to drive home the point. Taking a photo of the oral disease in their pet and showing it to the client can help them visualize the severity of the pathology. The advent of digital technology has given us another great tool in the promotion of dentistry. A digital photo can be a powerful tool. The picture will:

• Allow the client to see oral pathology without the need to focus on a moving target!

• Be a permanent document of the pathology

• Provide a take home view that your client can share with family

• Be a reminder for the client to return for treatment

• Provide your client with the before and after photos

• Become part of a bulletin board, display or notebook on oral pathology for use with future

• clients

You can also place digital radiographs and photos on a CD and send home with the client as memento of the procedure.

The use of a dental report card is a great way to help the client understand the treatment that was given to their animal. Include a simplified dental chart on which problem areas can be marked or highlighted. A section for diagnosis, treatment, home care, prescriptions and follow-up visits should be included on this report card. Keep it simple and use bright, cheerful colors with clipart. This is a fun way to give the client important information, a reminder of home care, dosages for prescriptions and the date of a follow-up visit. Always give the client your card and remind them to call with any and all questions.