Start planning now for a robust dental program in 2019

Since periodontal disease is the most common infectious disease in dogs and cats, affecting 80% of dogs and 70% of cats over 2 years of age,1-3 it is important to address the dental health of your patients with their owners. It is a well-known fact that the effects of dental disease go well beyond halitosis. Some of the consequences of untreated periodontal disease occur locally leading to tooth loss, oronasal fistulas, osteomyelitis, tooth root abscess and pathological fractions. Additionally, there are systemic effects that can impact the kidneys, liver, lungs and heart.4-6 Once periodontal disease is established, it is incurable and will progress unless proper dental treatment and good oral hygiene are provided.1

Although February has been designated Dental Health Month, every patient every day provides you an opportunity to talk about dental health with owners. Topics discussed should include dental cleaning, at home dental care and diets or treats that can benefit dental health. Even after recommending a dental, owner compliance can be as low as 50%.7

So, how can you improve dental compliance? First, consider doing an internal audit of your records to assess your compliance rate for dentals. A compliance audit consists of reviewing several records (100 – 200) over the last 6 months to a year, checking to see if dental disease was noted in the record and if a dental procedure was recommended; if so, was the procedure completed. Cats and dogs should be assessed separately. Compliance should be calculated for both recommendation of a dental procedure and completion of that procedure. 

Once you have your compliance rate, set S.M.A.R.T. goals for improvement. S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. Ensure that the entire team is aware of those goals and the steps needed to achieve them. Effectively communicating with pet owners, the need for the dental procedure and the risk to their pet if the dental procedure is not completed, will help them understand the urgency of the situation. 

Pet owners may be fearful of anesthesia so describing all the measures you take to ensure the safety and comfort of their pet while under anesthesia will relieve those fears. Providing postoperative pain medication, such as NSAIDS, and antibiotics when appropriate will minimize post procedure complications. Make sure that you schedule the procedure while the client is at the clinic and have a reminder system that confirms the patient will keep the scheduled appointment.  

Periodontal disease can be prevented or managed with good oral hygiene and regular professional veterinary dental care. Educating your clients on the benefits of a proactive dental health program will improve their understanding of the importance of keeping their pet’s teeth and gums healthy and will calm any of their fears or misunderstandings. Getting your team ready for a strong dental program in 2019 will benefit your patient, your clients and your practice. 


References: 1. Wiggs RB, Lobprise HB Veterinary dentistry-principles and practice. Philadelphia: Lippincott-Raven Publishers, 1997: 186-231. 2. Harvey CE Periodontal disease in dogs. Etiopathogenesis, prevalence, and significance. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 1998; 28: 1111-1128. 3. Lund EM, Armstrong PJ, Kirk CA, et al. Health status and population characteristics of dogs and cats examined at private veterinary practices in the United States. JAVMA 1999; 214:1336-1341. 4. Pavlica Z, Petelin M, Juntes P, et al. Periodontal disease burden and pathological changes in the organs of dogs. J Vet Dent 2008; 25:97-108. 5. Debowes LJ, Mosier D, Logan E, et al. Association of periodontal disease and histologic lesions in multiple organs from 45 dogs. J Vet Dent 1996; 13:57-60. 6. Glickman LT, Glickman NW, Moore GE, et al. Evaluation of the risk of endocarditis and other cardiovascular events on the basis of the severity of periodontal disease in dogs. JAVMA 2009; 234:486-494. 7.  Zoetis Dental Visits and Exploration Quantitative Market Research Study, C-Space VOICE Veterinarian Community, Sample Size N=84 Veterinarians, July 2018.


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