Bridging the compliance gap: Talk to clients about infection
It's the next step that often brings frustration: Getting clients to comply with your recommendations.
Even the best efforts toward dental-treatment compliance will fail unless first you win the client's trust. How can you do that? Here are some suggestions:
Our main selling point for dental procedures until now has been convincing pet owners that the animals' teeth need to be cleaned. Many owners don't lift a pet's lips to observe the teeth. Why assume they would comply with a recommendation that implies a mere cosmetic benefit?
It's time for a paradigm shift – looking at a problem in a different way.
Oral malodor is present in the majority of pets with tartar and inflammation. This malodor results from the mercaptans, sulfides and other noxious substances produced by anaerobes that collect in periodontal pockets.
If there is odor, there has been a shift from the normal gram-positive aerobic environment to a gram-negative anaerobic one. Therefore periodontal infection is present.
We need to talk to them about the odor, the infection, the progression, the potential pain and systemic effects and leave the teeth-cleaning concept out of the discussion.
I usually tell pet owners that I don't care if the teeth are cleaned but I do care that the infection is resolved. Infection is resolved only mechanically, not medically. Removal of plaque, tartar, granulation tissue and diseased bone are the only resolution to treating periodontal disease effectively. So let's start talking about infection rather than cleaning, and you're likely to gain more client compliance.