A digital camera lets you document any notable lesions or abnormalities and share before-and-after pictures with your clients—they
love to see the dramatic improvement in their pet's smile and may want copies. I also recommend providing digital copies of
the pet's dental radiographs. Simply photograph the radiographs with a digital camera, edit the images in a software program,
and print the pictures. This value-added service will reinforce your diagnosis and treatment and help build word-of-mouth
Anesthesia and monitoring equipment
Perhaps clients' biggest concern about dental care is anesthesia. It seems as if everyone has a horror story. While it's true
that any anesthetic procedure includes serious risk, you can help allay those fears by reviewing your monitoring equipment
and dental protocols with each client to reassure them about the safeguards you take.
To start, critically review your dental anesthetic protocol. With injectable anesthetics, such as propofol, and inhalant agents,
such as isoflurane and sevoflurane, you can tailor the safest anesthetic protocol based on the patient's needs. You'll look
closely at the pet's temperament, physical condition, preexisting medical conditions, and past anesthetic experiences.
Tips for raising dental awareness
In my practice, we require preanesthetic blood tests for all patients before they undergo dental scaling and polishing, and
we provide intravenous catheterization and fluid support throughout the procedure. Ideally, you'll monitor the pet's condition
with pulse oximetry, a heart and respiratory rate monitor, electrocardiography, and body temperature measurements. End-tidal
CO2 monitoring or a rectal probe for pulse oximetry is also beneficial in dental patients because it can be challenging to obtain
consistent pulse oximeter readings using lingual probes during oral procedures.
The people and the process
Even with all of the latest technology, some clients won't be convinced to schedule dental prophylaxis for their pets.This
part is up to you and your staff members. Start by developing a uniform message for enthusiastic staff members. Ask yourself
why dentistry is important for patients. Research in both people and pets proves that good oral care extends life expectancy,
prevents secondary diseases, and improves quality of life.
For example, a University of Minnesota School of Public Health study found that tooth loss caused by gum disease may be an
early warning sign of cardiovascular disease.1 Studies by the American Heart Association (
http://www.americanheart.org/) and the American Academy of Periodontology (
http://www.perio.org/) have also found this. More important, ask yourself how you feel about dental care. If you're not fully committed to the
program, you can't expect it to succeed.
Your team members must be on board with the program also. So train your staff members, make sure they're providing home dental
care for their pets, and then allow them to educate your clients. A message from the heart and borne of experience will resonate
more deeply with clients, and they will be more likely to comply with your recommendations. Once you're convinced that dentistry
is right for you and your team, it's time to get to work.
The first step is to educate yourself. Review the current scientific literature about basic veterinary dentistry,2,3 and identify the areas you want to pursue. Start with the simple procedures and work your way up. Consider taking advantage
of some of the outstanding continuing education opportunities offered for veterinary dentistry. For example, the Academy of
Veterinary Dentistry Web site (
http://www.avdonline.org/) offers great resources for continuing education.