Help your veterinary practices prepare for next year’s pet dental conversations now
Periodontal disease is the most common dental condition in dogs and cats, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. “By the time your pet is 3 years old, he or she will very likely have some early evidence of periodontal disease, which will worsen as your pet grows older if effective preventive measures aren’t taken,” the association says on its website. “Early detection and treatment are critical, because advanced periodontal disease can cause severe problems and pain for your pet.”
Unfortunately, public awareness of periodontal disease in dogs and cats is generally low, says John Lewis, VMD, FAVD, DAVDC, a doctor in Dentistry and Oral Surgery. The good news is that in recent years, more veterinarians and veterinary technicians are making efforts to educate pet owners at their initial puppy and kitten visits, discussing prevention techniques and the need for regular dental cleanings under anesthesia, he says.
“Over recent decades, more studies have emerged that suggest maintaining a healthy mouth increases chances of maintaining a healthy body in our veterinary patients,” Lewis says. “Awareness levels among veterinarians are not as high as for other disease processes, largely due to the fact that many veterinary schools still don’t have a dentistry specialist on their faculty. If we are not taught about something in veterinary school, we tend to minimize its importance once we enter into practice. Veterinarians tend to focus on diseases that they know how to diagnose and treat.”
Keys to success
Lewis says general veterinary practices must believe in the benefits of maintaining good dental health. “This may require an investment of time in researching the available literature and obtaining quality continuing education in a topic that receives too little attention in veterinary school and technician school,” he says.
He suggests veterinary practice owners provide opportunities for their staff and clients to see the benefits of maintaining, or restoring, a healthy mouth. CE events and client testimonials pay dividends to ensure the entire staff is exposed to the success stories that we, as veterinary dentists, see on a daily basis, he says.
If veterinary practices rightfully tout the benefits of anesthetic cleanings over non-anesthetic attempts to clean the teeth and subgingival areas, they should, “make sure [they] deliver on the promise of a thorough cleaning and better diagnostics,” Lewis says. “Invest in appropriate sterilized dental equipment for each patient, including the diagnostic benefits of a probe/explorer and dental radiographs. Well-trained, well-equipped, enthusiastic staff members make a huge difference. Proper training and equipment are essential!”
The dental push
Pet Dental Health Month (February 2019) is a great time for veterinary practices to emphasize the importance of treating – and preventing – periodontal disease.
Anything that reminds pet owners that pets have teeth is a good thing, says Lewis. “Just like our teeth, pets’ teeth require care to prevent infection and pain. Pet Dental Health Month was established to raise awareness of a problem that requires year-long attention.”
Veterinary Advantage asked several experts about what they see successful practices doing to promote dental care, questions distributor reps can ask, and more.