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Helping clients care for pets' chompers
No matter what your role in the veterinary team, you play an integral part in pets' dental care.
It's hard to watch a client walk out the door with a pet that desperately needs a dental cleaning. But you can reduce the number of pets suffering from oral health issues by ensuring that you fulfill your role in educating clients and caring for pets. Here's what you can do:
You're the practice's frontline of care, and it's your job to ask the critical questions about what's going on with patients. Your goal is to get the client to the practice so a trained eye can look at the pet's mouth. When clients show up for a routine visit, remind them that their pets need regular dental cleanings. You'll help plant the seed for regular dental care so when technicians and veterinarians offer dental recommendations, clients will be more receptive.
You play an important role by helping to handle the pet during exams to make sure the doctor can properly assess the pet's oral health condition. You also may brush pets' teeth and teach clients how to properly care for their pets' teeth.
You're responsible for team training and client education programs. Community awareness programs may include hospital tours, various charity events, or an open house with activities such as brushing demonstrations and free dental assessments. Teaching team members about dental care, such as educating them about new products and the practice's protocols, helps to guarantee that the practice's dental message is consistent.
You help assess the pet's oral health and pass the information to the doctor, who will conduct an even more thorough exam. Your responsibilities also may include dental cleaning under the supervision of a veterinarian and in accordance with your state's laws, as well as monitoring the pet during oral surgery and recovery. Finally, you play an integral part in educating pet owners about dental procedures and making sure they understand their responsibility for ongoing care.
Now, if you're worried about being pigeonholed in your practice as the tooth cleaner, don't worry. Technicians who focus on dentistry don't spend all day every day staring into pets' mouths, says Christine Chevalier, LVT, with Plainfield Animal Hospital in Plainfield, N.J.
"Dental care is perfect for those looking to harness all of their skills," Chevalier says. "You'll use everything you know, from inducing patients and monitoring them postoperatively to making sure they're doing better at home and resuming their normal regimens." For example, as her practice's so-called dental technician, Chevalier uses skills she's learned for anesthesia, surgical assisting, and medical and clinical care. "It's instant gratification," she says. "You start with a really nasty mouth with really nasty tartar, and by the end you see this gleaming, pearly-white mouth and beautiful, healthy pink tissue."