When it comes to feline dental care, a photo helps your message hit home.
Stinky. Grimy. Smelly. Gross. Repellent. Repulsive. Foul. Nasty. Icky. Gut-churning. These are just a few of the words that might come to a client's mind upon seeing photos of feline periodontal disease, stomatitis, or tooth resorption in their own cat.
When it comes to feline dental care, a picture is worth a thousand words, and grossing out your client may be what really brings the message of proper dental care home. "To thoroughly explain a teeth cleaning process takes about 350 words, which means a picture is three times more powerful," says Paul Camilo, CVPM, operating partner for Veterinary Consultation Services in Weston, Fla. "If you take a picture of tooth resorption and show an open nerve to clients, you'll get their attention."
It's important to discuss dental care with your feline clients year-round, not just during Dental Health Month. This is critical because about 70 percent of cats over the age of 4 have dental disease, Camilo says. Yet in Benchmarks 2011: A Study of Well-Managed Practices, dentistry accounted for only 2.6 percent of gross revenue. "Veterinary dentistry is the number one opportunity for growth in most veterinary clinics," Camilo says. It also benefits cats whose overall health will improve with proper veterinary dental care.
When you show your clients photos of their cat's dental issues, you're also showing them that health issues like periodontal disease are progressive. Showing clients a chart with the four stages of periodontal disease and comparing the current condition of their pet's teeth to that chart helps quantify the severity of the present disease, Camilo says. Plus, showing clients these photos can help encourage them to comply with dental treatment while problems are still in early stages. For sample photos, download the client handout shown here at dvm360.com/felinedental.
Photos can also come in handy once clients follow through and bring their pets in for dental care. Show clients before-and-after pictures of their pet's mouth—and they see exactly what they're getting for their money.
The key to sending a consistent message, helping cats, and boosting your practice's bottom line is ensuring that your entire team is involved. "Veterinary dentistry is a team effort," Camilo says. "Everyone, including the receptionists, technicians, veterinarians, and kennel staff, must communicate the same message to clients." He says everyone in the clinic should be in the habit of looking at the patient's mouth. When a team member spots an issue, he or she should report it to the client and the attending veterinarian. Using a combination of oral, written, and visual cues ensures that the veterinary team is speaking to clients on every level.