Perhaps it’s time to abandon Dental Health Month

Each February, we “celebrate” Dental Health Month, but veterinarian Scott Krick, DVM, says there is a better way to get patients the dental care they so desperately need.

By Scott Krick, DVM

“WHAT?” I can hear the thoughts in your head already! Before you start with the vitriolic hate mail, at least hear me out.  

After practicing for two years immediately after graduation, I founded a companion animal hospital in southeastern Pennsylvania where I subsequently practiced for 22 years. Every spring we would “celebrate” Dental Health Month. We would offer clients a 15% discount on dental prophylaxis in the hopes that this would encourage pet owners to address the dental disease that exists in most pets over three years of age.  

It was both an awareness campaign directed toward the clients, and a potential revenue driver for the clinic. Despite what you might have concluded from the scandalous title, I am a huge believer in dental care for pets. I also firmly believe that we, as the primary health care advocates for our patients, are still not doing enough to promote dental health and educate pet owners. 

So what’s wrong with Dental Health Month? 

That being said, Dental Health Month was always approached with a mix of apprehension and dread in my practice. It created a situation where dental procedures were overbooked for that month, causing “dentals” to spill over into the subsequent month(s).  

The treatment room was routinely overrun with dental procedures, technicians and veterinarians were overwhelmed with dental prophies, and the entire schedule was thrown into chaos. In an effort to secure the discount, clients would often forego recommendations made throughout the previous months and delay the necessary procedures.   

To make matters worse, I actually documented my staff (veterinarians included!) encouraging people to put off necessary procedures until Dental Health Month in order to take advantage of the savings.  

Needless to say, my staff and I rarely “celebrated” the event. 

Make Dental Health Month every month of the year 

Having finally reached a breaking point, I decided to address the issue during a monthly staff meeting. I asked my staff two simple questions, “Do any of you believe that it is acceptable to ignore dental disease in our patients?”  

An unequivocal and unanimous, “No!” resulted.  

I followed this with, “Then why do you encourage people to wait to have dental procedures done?”   

At this point a cacophony of voices erupted, all with the same theme: “We want to save our clients money!” 

OK, the rationale was unanimous and clear. Now for an elegant solution. After a little thought, and recognizing that the 15% discount, if extended, would be more than offset by the increased annual revenue and patient and staff wellbeing, I proposed this alternative: We would make “Dental Health Month” every month of the year, but only under one condition—the clients would need to book the procedure at the time the discount was offered.  

The conversation at checkout at any time of year now changed to, “I see that Dr. Krick recommended a dental procedure for Goldie. If you book that today, I can offer you the Dental Health Month discount.”  

We all recognize that a significant percentage of clients, when faced with a treatment plan will reply that they’ll “give it thought,” “check with their partner,” “call sometime next week,” or must “wait until payday,” (etc., etc., etc.). I have come to learn that these are deflective ways of simply saying, “No thank you.”  

And we probably agree that, with all the other obligations in their lives, clients often let the recommendations we make fall off their radar. We also recognize that we humans can’t pass up a bargain. Using this method of offering the discount year-round, I’ve found the vast majority of clients who book the appointment keep it. Given the enticement of the savings, most clients were now willing to commit.  

As a result, our annual dental procedures were spread out throughout the year, procedure counts skyrocketed, our clients benefited from the savings, our staff’s stress level was dramatically reduced, and best of all, more patients received the dental care they needed.  

In the practices that I’ve shared this idea with, all have experienced the same results. One reluctant clinic even reached out to tell me that by July of the year in which they instituted the change, they had already surpassed the number of dental procedures done in the entire previous year.  

I am certain that other veterinarians far more astute than I have figured out this little trick long before me. If you haven’t though, I encourage you to give it a try. As I see it, you have nothing to lose but stress and anxiety. Let’s make Dental Health Month every month of the year! 


Scott Krick, DVM, graduated from Cornell Veterinary School in 1987. In 1989, he founded the Sinking Spring Animal Hospital in southeastern Pennsylvania and was the co-founder of an after-hours emergency facility. Scott has also trained veterinarians in laser surgery, written a surgical nursing study guide and multiple articles for Veterinary Technician magazine, and was the Primary Investigator for 10 FDA clinical trials. In 2011 he joined Hill’s Pet Nutrition as a Professional Consulting Veterinarian. Scott  now proudly serves as the Technical Services Veterinarian for companion animals at Norbrook Inc.  

Photo credit: © smrm1977 E+ via Getty Images Plus 

Disclaimer: The views expressed, and topics discussed, in any NEWStat column or article are intended to inform, educate, or entertain, and do not represent an official position by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) or its Board of Directors. 



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