Terminology and messaging

The most important step in achieving compliance with oral health recommendations is getting the client to understand the value and believe in the importance of regular dental care. This awareness generally results when client realizes that oral pathology is a source of chronic pain, infection, and poor quality of life for the pet.20,80 The majority of dental care takes place in the primary care setting. A fundamental aspect of delivering high-quality veterinary dental care is for the practice team to use consistent dental care terminology and messaging with the client. When this is consistently done using tools such as a written treatment plan, client compliance with your oral health recommendations will generally follow.

Dental terminology should reflect the importance and breadth of the dental and oral disease prevention, diagnostics, and therapies. For example, the consensus viewpoint of the Guidelines Task Force is that using the simplified term “prophy” is incorrect and misleading because our dental patients often have calculus and gingivitis before prophylactic therapy is recommended.81 Neither prophy nor the term “dental” adequately convey the breadth or complexity of oral health services offered in primary care or referral practices. The broader terminology “oral health” better conveys the full scope of this aspect of pet healthcare. Even the correct use of medical terminology without properly educating the client as to its meaning is insufficient. The practice team should avoid acronyms, overly simplified terminology, and medical jargon when discussing oral healthcare with clients. Perhaps more than most other aspects of veterinary care, proper use of oral health terminology is directly linked to client understanding, acceptance, and compliance with your recommendations.