Updated: Oct 27
It’s common knowledge amongst those in the veterinary industry that dental disease is one of the most serious and widespread conditions in adult dogs and cats. Yet, for whatever reason, oral health care remains a low priority for pet owners. Not only does prioritizing dental care help keep patients happier and healthier, but it also means a better bottom line for you. If you could use a little help in this area, here are four tips for getting clients to say ‘yes’ to dental exams.
Don’t just tell. Show
As an experienced vet, you know the difference between a healthy mouth and a diseased one, but you should never just assume your clients know the same. If you notice oral health concerns, like plaque buildup or inflamed gums, don’t just talk about it with the pet owner. Show them. Explain what it is you’re seeing and, more importantly, why it concerns you.
And be detailed. For example, “See how Samson’s teeth are yellowed? This could be a sign of gingivitis, which could cause a lot of other health problems for him if we don’t it under control. To find out for sure what’s going on, we really need to look below the gum line.” That’s far more impactful and convincing than saying something like, “You really should consider a dental exam.”
Showing and telling your clients in greater detail also opens the door for questions and allows you to start a dialogue that can help strengthen your connection.
Communicate your proposed treatment plan
Once you’ve fully explained and demonstrated the need for dental care, the next step is going over the estimate. This is something most vets dread, because it can cause sticker shock and leave clients backpedaling. To prevent this, change the perspective. For example, rather than “estimate,” use the term “treatment plan.” This takes the focus off the cost and places it on the medical care.
Sit your client down and go over your proposed plan of action, step-by-step. Again, being thorough is always the best way to win a client’s approval. Explain why each step is necessary and what it will accomplish. For instance, “First, we’ll have to sedate Samson using an anesthetic induction. This is necessary because it will help keep him safe and comfortable during the procedure.”
Open the floor for questions and take your time answering them patiently. Understand that while dental procedures are an everyday occurrence for you, they can be mysterious and therefore stressful for a pet owner.
Bonus Tip: Try to allow a little bit of wiggle room in your treatment plan for ancillary charges, such as post-op medications. Having to surprise your client with an additional $150 fee at discharge will not be a positive experience for either party.
Get the whole team onboard
You’ve got an awesome team running your practice. Put them to use! Train and instruct your vet techs and assistants to perform dental assessments. Have them assist with educating clients on how to brush their pets’ teeth at home and recommend dental care products. Doing this empowers your staff while also reinforcing to clients the consistent message of the importance of ongoing dental care.
Closing the loop with a forward-booking policy can also help improve compliance with dental care. For instance, the technician and/or assistant assesses the patient’s teeth and gums, the DVM confirms the evaluation, recommends an appropriate treatment plan and the receptionist completes the process by getting the client to book a dental appointment at checkout. This is much more effective than having to chase the client after the fact.
Make it an internal priority
You’d be surprised at how many practices treat dental care as an afterthought. Even if it’s on your radar, simply instructing your team to focus on dentistry at the next staff meeting isn’t going to move the needle on dental compliance.
As the practice owner or practice manager, it’s up to you to make sure your team is armed with everything they need to make dental care a priority in your practice. If that means internal training, external continuing education, role-playing exercises or something else, so be it. Having a highly skilled, confident and empowered staff will do wonders for getting clients to feel good about investing in dental care.
In addition to training, you should also set goals for your practice that you can use to measure progress. Remember to make your goals SMART; that is, specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based. For example, if you currently do 5 dentals a month, you might set a goal to increase that to 10 by X date. Identify opportunities and teach your team to be proactive about promoting dental care. Make it a part of your overall practice vision and you’ll begin to see amazing things happen.
Dentistry is a segment of care that is necessary, yet surprisingly neglected by many in the industry. By following the steps above, you can take advantage of this great opportunity to improve patient care and boost your bottom line at the same time.
Our tips, tricks, and expert advice
How should a vet approach discussing the cost of dental care with pet owners?
A vet should present costs as a detailed treatment plan, focusing on medical care benefits, explaining each step, and patiently answering questions.
What steps should a practice take to make dental care a priority internally?
A practice should train the staff, empower them to educate clients on dental care, set specific, measurable goals, and incorporate dental health into the practice's mission.
How does prioritizing dental care benefit the vet practice profits?
Prioritizing dental care can increase the services provided, leading to higher profits. Additionally, it enhances patient health, promoting customer loyalty and recurring business.
For more practice management tips, tricks, and expert advice, bookmark the DVMelite blog and check back often for fresh content.