Here’s something that might put a smile on your face: According to the Pet Oral Care Market research report, pet oral care is on track for “huge growth” between now and 2027. That’s good news for pets, most of whom have some type of periodontal disease by age 3. As industry leaders like HealthyMouth and PetzLife start ramping up their marketing, it’s a good time for veterinarians and veterinary dentists to follow suit.

Why? In a 2017 pilot program that encouraged veterinarians to promote their dentistry business, those who did were able to double their dentistry revenue and add an average of nearly $75,000. As a bonus, with consumers hearing more about oral health for pets, it may be an easier sell to get owners interested in expanding their pets’ dental treatment. What’s more, Today’s Veterinary Business notes that many vets don’t do much in the way of dentistry. If you do, you could become the go-to for local owners — provided you get the word out.

Here are a few tips to help integrate dental health into your messaging:

Start with your staff

The American Animal Hospital Association found that the number-one reason owners don’t seek dental care for pets is because they have never heard it recommended by the veterinarian or veterinary staff. That may seem easy enough to remedy but it requires more than a quick chat. Everyone on your team should know the benefits of dental treatment for pets: It not only can prevent bad breath, mouth pain, and tooth loss, but also can protect their heart, kidneys, and liver.

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Work with staff on how to talk about dental health with clients. Encourage them to practice their “script” with loved ones and ask for feedback. Also document customer feedback: If they reject a dental treatment, ask why and use the feedback to adjust your approach.

Do a dental exam at every visit

Let your clients know that dental exams are important and add them to any chart review, including a healthy pet visit. This will give you the opportunity to discuss the importance of dental health. After the exam, be sure to explain what you saw (good or bad) and offer pointers on oral hygiene.

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If a pet is scheduled for a procedure where they will be under anesthesia, ask the owner about including a tooth cleaning (if medically indicated). Consider offering a discount when it’s done as an add-on service.

Make toothbrushing doable

This isn’t an enjoyable task for many owners, so it’s helpful to remove barriers to care. For example, hand out toothbrushes and pet toothpaste, just as dentists do for human patients. Also show technicians how to give a demonstration of toothbrushing techniques. Make sure they understand how to help owners ease pets into the process.

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Encourage staffers to brush their own pet’s teeth on a regular basis. This will make it easier for them to show clients how to do it during an office visit.

Explain about pain

Even people who take their own dental hygiene seriously may view pet dental health as an afterthought. Remind clients that their pet can’t speak up when her teeth hurt. In fact, it may take months for a pet’s dental problem to be noticeable to their owners. Often the first sign an owner may see is when they stop eating due to the pain. Unfortunately, by that point, treatment may be more expensive and extensive and is more likely to impact the pet’s quality of life. Clients with senior pets should know that teeth wear out and that older animals are especially vulnerable to dental disease.

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Remind owners that dental hygiene for pets is less painful and costly than extractions or oral surgery, just as is true for people.

Offer top-notch products

Consider sending every pet home with a how-to handout on oral hygiene for their species, which includes a list of pet-specific products you prefer. You may find that selling some of these products in your hospital provides an extra revenue stream and encourages pet tooth care.

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When pets need a prescription refill, have staff ask owners if they would also like to pick up additional toothbrushes, toothpaste, or dental wipes, if you offer them.

Conduct periodic campaigns

Don’t wait until National Dental Health Month to reach out to clients. Select several months throughout the year when you will focus on dentistry. Set measurable goals for these one-month campaigns, create a budget, write and role-play scripts, create materials (such as emails and posters), and host product giveaways. Be sure to evaluate and celebrate your success with your team.

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Add a button to your website’s home page that leads to more information about dental health and a link to scheduling a dental-care appointment or asking a question.

Training your staff to talk more about dental health throughout the year may increase acceptance and awareness, resulting in more opportunities for dental procedures year-round and better dental health for your patients.

Sources: AVMA, NeighborWebSJ, Today’s Veterinary Business, VetFolio

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