Inside AAHA February 2023

AAHA director Lynn Happel, DVM, offers her top dentistry tips from the field, and AAHA answers a question about appointment confirmations and how to handle no-shows.

View from the Board

Dentistry Tips from the Field

The things we know about veterinary dentistry: It’s absolutely an essential part of excellence in veterinary medicine and treating the whole health of the patient. We have all had the positive reinforcement of clients telling us “My pet is so much more active, interacting with the family again, playing with toys they haven’t in years, [insert return of healthy behavior here.]“

The beauty of being a part of the AAHA community is the collaboration and best practices that we can share with one another. Here are some tips and tricks that increase compliance and success in my practice.

Tip 1: Present dentistry as part of the expected healthcare plan for your patients. As I perform wellness exams, I present dental care as similar to humans. There are two parts to dental health, home care and professional cleanings. Just like you and I brush our teeth two times daily, the pet needs some sort of daily home dental care. Tooth brushing is best. If that’s not possible, you can have clients visit vohc.org for a list of dental products that are tested and proven to reduce plaque and tartar in their pet.

The second part of dental care is professional cleanings. Just like you and I receive professional cleanings every six months, pets need annual professional cleanings. And because they don’t sit still and say “Aaah,” they need to be placed under general anesthesia. This typically hits home as the dog or cat is moving all around while I examine the mouth.

Tip 2: Remove the fear of anesthesia. It may seem tedious, but I get the best compliance about anesthesia and cost of the procedure after I ask, “Can I walk you through the day in the life of a dental procedure?” I then walk them step by step through the day from check in to check out. By the time I list all the steps and how I make my diagnostic decisions, the owners are more understanding of the need for anesthesia and the cost of the procedure.

Tip 3: I hope you are all doing this already, but perform dental charting and full mouth radiographs in ALL PATIENTS. We miss issues by not looking. I love the quote of the veterinarian oath “the prevention and relief of animal suffering.” We cannot treat what we cannot see because we don’t have all the information.

Tip 4: Continuing education!! If your schooling was like mine, there was very limited education on veterinary dentistry. All my skills and knowledge have been since after graduation.

For the safety and comfort of your patients, learn proper extraction technique and practice regularly to increase speed anddecrease time spent under anesthesia. There is also the Veterinary Dental Forum conference each year in the fall. The conference has three tracks: intro, intermediate, and advanced as well as multiple wet labs. I strongly recommend this conference for all things veterinary dental education-related.

Tip 5: Have fun! Dentistry is unique in that you can make an immediate impact on the health and comfort of your patient. What a rewarding experience! Of course, don’t forget to check out the 2019 AAHA Dental Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats for more dental tips and best practices.

Lynn Happel, DVM, is a director on the AAHA board. She graduated from Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2003. In 2010, she decided to open her own practice, and Eastown Veterinary Clinic opened in 2011. Happel’s special interest within the field of veterinary medicine is veterinary dentistry. She has done hundreds of hours of additional training to learn why dental health is so important and how to perform specialized procedures.

Lynn Happel, DVM
Lynn Happel, DVM, is a director on the AAHA board. She graduated from Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2003. In 2010, she decided to open her own practice, and Eastown Veterinary Clinic opened in 2011. Happel’s special interest within the field of veterinary medicine is veterinary dentistry. She has done hundreds of hours of additional training to learn why dental health is so important and how to perform specialized procedures.

This month in AAHA’s Publicity Toolbox . . .

Here are the downloadable social media images available for AAHA-accredited members at aaha.org/publicity this month:DentalMonth_FB_10.png

  • National Pet Dental Health Month
  • Spay and Neuter Awareness Month
  • Cat Health Month
  • Happy Valentine’s Day (February 14)
  • World Spay Day (February 28)

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Q: We have been running into significantly more no-show appointments.

We are debating canceling the appointment if they do not confirm. Have any of you done this to prevent the no-shows? Suggestions for other ways to reduce? We have in the past charged a no-show fee… but we would end up losing the client and not collecting the fee. It didn’t seem beneficial to me at the time.

A: I would send out a mass email explaining to clients that “due to a recent influx in the amount of clients not confirming their appointments and clients not showing up for their pet’s appointments, the office will be implementing a no show/cancellation fee.”

A: We cancel the appointment at the end of the day on the day before the appointment. We let them know when we call what our policy is, and we document in the notes.

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Start the conversation with other AAHA members when you log in at community.aaha.org. For help, email community@aaha.org.

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