Routine Use of Thiol-Detection Strips Substantially Increased Practice Revenue

May 2, 2016
Amy Karon, DVM, MPH

Regular use of thiol-detection strip tests during canine wellness examinations helped owners visualize periodontal disease, and substantially increased revenue from dental cleanings, radiology, and oral care products compared with one year prior, according to a multicenter study published in the Journal of Veterinary Science and Technology.

Regular use of thiol-detection strip tests during canine wellness examinations helped owners visualize periodontal disease, and substantially increased revenue from dental cleanings, radiology, and oral care products compared with one year prior, according to a multicenter study published in the Journal of Veterinary Science and Technology.

The concentration of thiols in oral secretions correlate positively with the presence and severity of active periodontal infection. Thiol-detection strip tests not only help quantify the severity of periodontitis, but also reveal active disease beneath the gum line that is not seen during the oral examination of awake animals, wrote Gary Goldstein, DVM, from the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, together with his colleagues. The American Animal Hospital Association’s 2013 dentistry guidelines recommend routine use of thiol-detection strips during canine wellness examinations, but not all practices do so.

The study included four geographically diverse veterinary practices that had never used the strips before and agreed to do so during all canine wellness examinations for 3 months. The researchers calculated 3-month revenue from professional dental cleanings performed under anesthesia, dental radiology, and practice sales of products such as veterinary toothbrushes and toothpaste, oral rinses and gels, prescription dental food, and dental treats and chews. They compared the results with revenue for the same 3-month period one year earlier. Researchers were unable to assess baseline (control) compliance with oral care recommendations, but did measure owner compliance during the prospective intervention period.

After implementing routine use of the thiol-detection strips, the four practices experienced increases in revenue across all categories measured, including a:

  • 68% rise in revenue from professional dental cleanings under anesthesia
  • 141% increase in revenue from dental radiology
  • 327% increase in revenue from sales of toothbrushes and paste
  • 1209% rise in revenue from sales of oral rinses and gels
  • 73% increase in revenue from sales of dental foods, treats, and chews

Total revenue from professional dentistry care rose from $67,178 to just over $116,065, a 73% increase, the researchers said. Revenue from sales of dental home-care products increased from 2,162 to $3,455 -- a 60% rise. Moreover, increases in canine wellness visits did not explain the changes — in fact, these visits dropped by 12% between the control and study periods, the authors wrote.

After they were shown the thiol-detection strips, 53% of owners complied with recommendations for professional dental cleanings under anesthesia, 57% agreed to dental radiographs, and 80% purchased recommended dental home-care products, the investigators reported. They were unable to directly compare these results with baseline compliance data, but compliance probably increased, based on the consistent and substantial increases in revenue, they added. “Veterinarian recommendations are more likely to be followed when they are clear and unambiguous,” the authors wrote. “In this study, the thiol-detection test provided a firm, objective basis for veterinarian recommendations of dental procedures, including professional dental cleanings and radiography, and home-care products.”

The researchers did not report funding sources. One coinvestigator is affiliated with PDx Bio Tech, which manufactures the OraStrip QuickCheck Canine thiol-detection strip used in the study.

Dr. Amy Karon earned her doctorate in veterinary medicine and master’s degrees in public health and journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She was an infectious disease epidemiologist and “disease detective” (EIS officer) with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before becoming a full-time medical writer. She lives in the San Francisco Bay area, where she volunteers for the local Humane Society.