Mouth-to-mouth: Resuscitate the dental program in your veterinary practice


As a critical component to pets' health, dental care deserves more than your lip service. Here's what you need to know to script your team's message.

Is it time to call 911 on your dental program? Or maybe it's just looking a little green around the gills and could use a healthy dose of attention to get it back on its feet and running.

While February might be a time when many practices inject their dental initiatives with a shot of TLC, sometimes that attention begins to wane as the winter months fade into spring and the temperatures begin to climb. Use this advice to plan a team meeting that brings new life to your down-in-the-mouth dental program.

Start with triage

Your first step is to remind team members that everyone at the practice plays an important role in an effective dental program that protects pets' health. Plan an educational team meeting for the entire team. It's a good idea to start the meeting by passing out the team training tool, "What's your role? How every team member cares for teeth." (See for links to this and other team training tools mentioned here.) This will highlight to team members how everyone, from receptionist and the technician to the assistant and the practice manager, needs to participate to encourage good oral health.

Team training tools

Shock your program back to life

Once your team members understand they all play a part, it's time to talk about your team's marketing approach. Remind your team that marketing isn't a dirty word. Your true goal is to educate pet owners about their pets' oral health needs, and you can start with the ideas in the article "Drill team: 5 ways to boost your practice's dental program."

Next, copy and distribute "10 ideas for increasing veterinary dental services" and "Tooth truths: Even more ways to boost dental compliance." Review the ideas as a team and discuss which ones you'd like to implement. Start with a few, and choose a point person to be responsible for each goal. You'll check in with each point person at your next team meeting to assess your team's progress and assign new tasks. You may also consider offering small rewards or tokens of appreciation for team members who take on this additional responsibility, such as a box of chocolates or an extra privilege, like a special designated parking space.

As a team, it's also a good idea to set SMART goals: ones that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Consider posting your goals in the break room to keep them top-of-mind with team members. Then let your team choose a reward—tickets for the team to a favorite sporting event or a team night at the bowling alley, for example. Celebrating your success together is an important team-building exercise that will keep everyone motivated when your practice gets busy with other tasks.

Stabilize your care

You know you've got a great clinical team, right? And they stay at their best by constantly learning. To help them prepare for the new influx of dental cleanings your team will bring in and share some patient care tools, such as "How to perform a thorough dental exam" and "How to obtain the best dental radiographs." As a team, you might take the Image Quiz "What's wrong with this dog's teeth?" Your front-office team members will also benefit from seeing how a mouth that might appear normal at a glance can hide serious dental issues.

Put your finger on the pulse

Once your team is ready to offer strong dental recommendations and build client awareness, it's time to get pet owners on your side. During your team meeting, share some client education handouts and explain how you'll use them in practice.

For example, when the veterinarian makes a dental recommendation to a pet owner who hesitates, team members can send the client home with the handout "Dandy's day at the dentist." This simple tool reminds clients of the high-quality care their pet receives at your practice. The handout "How does your pet's mouth look?" demonstrates the stages of dental disease and gives pet owners a comparison for their pets' mouths, and "A guide to brushing your pet's teeth" is a great tool to send home in puppy and kitten kits, after wellness exams, and especially after dental cleanings.

Congratulations! Once you've shared these tips and advice at your team meeting, your team members should be equipped with tools to bring life back to your dental program—and keep its heart beating all year long.

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