The dos and don'ts of veterinary dentistry (Proceedings)


In 2009, we have come a long way in veterinary dentistry. We have come a long way, in veterinary medicine as a whole.

In 2009, we have come a long way in veterinary dentistry. We have come a long way, in veterinary medicine as a whole. With the economy as it is, now is the time for dentistry departments to be totally on their game. According to the NCVEI (National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues), this year practices reported less than half of the growth they experienced in previous years.

Some of the following are things we can manage within our hospitals to maximize the impact dentistry makes on our patients, our clients and the practice revenue and health.

Some critical dos

• Every patient's mouth should be examined every time they are presented to a practice team member.

     o In health

     o During illness

     o All staff members should get used to communicating the needs of the patient every time they come in contact with that patient.

• Get used to looking at the mouths of puppies and kittens. There is a wonderful opportunity to handle many problems at the time of spay/neuter. Look for:

     o Crowding

     o Supernumerary teeth

     o Missing teeth

     o Rotated teeth

     o Redundant gingival

     o Occlusion issues

• Be proactive about feline gingivitis/stomatitis issues

• Be prepared to discuss the perception of pain in pets.

• Recommend biopsy of EVERY growth within the oral cavity

• Evaluate the ability of each client on a case by case basis

• Use general anesthesia EVERY time.

• Have one technician providing anesthetic support and one providing dentistry support.

• Every mouth should be charted.

• Make sure everyone providing dentistry services has been properly educated.

     o Technicians

          - Anesthesia

          - Dentistry

          - Intra-oral Radiology

     o Veterinarians

          - Interpretation of radiographs

          - Proper surgical techniques

• Charge appropriately

     o Send out estimates

          - Should have any pertinent information provided as well

          - Policies

          - Admission protocols

          - How important it is to be available by phone

          - Pain perception in our animal population.

     o Value your time

     o Value the procedure

Some critical don'ts

• Never assume the client will not provide care.

     o Always offer the best and work with the client to determine what care they CAN provide.

• Don't say "Dental"

     o It is not a noun it is an adjective.

• Don't ignore painful conditions

• Don't be afraid to refer to a specialist

• Don't miss diagnostic, and financial opportunities by avoiding a protocol whereby each dentistry requires full survey radiographs.

• Don't ignore ergonomics and your back

• Don't ignore equipment maintenance

• Don't get too caught up in discounts.

• Don't ignore the power of educating the entire staff

     o Kennel staff

     o Reception staff

     o Veterinarians that are not active in the dentistry profit center

In this economic environment, a slow down should be viewed as a "speed bump"; an opportunity to slow down in order to examine how you are providing and communicating care.

If 75-85% of all cats and dogs over three years of age are experiencing periodontal disease, you should be overwhelmed with dentistries. Every multi-veterinarian practice should be actively hunting a VTS in dentistry just to manage the overload of work or to build a dynamic and active dentistry department.

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