3 DON'T PLAY THE BLAME GAME
Dr. Ginny Kunch, an associate at Diamond Animal Hospital and Emergency Services in Anchorage, Alaska, takes a nonconfrontational
approach when discussing dentistry. "I tell clients it's not their fault," she says. "I explain that some pets just have bad
enamel and make the correlation that my dad has great teeth and my mom had terrible teeth. I had a cavity by the time I was
5 years old—not because I didn't brush but because of genetics." By reassuring her clients that they didn't cause their pet's
dental disease, Dr. Kunch is able to get her clients to focus on what's important—the necessary treatment.
4 APPEAL TO THE CLIENT'S SOFT SIDE
A rotten tooth hurts. Clients know this, but it's hard for many of them to tell if their pet is in pain. Make sure they understand
that animals feel pain the same as people do, even if they don't show it. I often ask my clients, "Have you ever had a root
canal?" They usually wince or groan as they nod. Then I'll say, "Then you know how much it hurts. Buster can't tell us his
tooth hurts, but you know it's painful."
5 SHOW AND SMELL THE DIFFERENCE
Some clients assume that halitosis is just doggy breath. Dr. Bennett reports that when clients seem oblivious to the severity
of the disease, she'll gag in front of them or give a little shudder upon catching a whiff. One trick I often use in the exam
room is to quickly find the worst example of pathology I can and have the owner bend down for a close look (and sniff) while
I explain what they're looking at (and smelling).
6 ANTICIPATE OBJECTIONS
If you recommend dentistry to a newer client, bring up potential anesthesia objections before the client even mentions it.
Explain that you'll have a dedicated veterinary technician monitoring the pet every minute under anesthesia, or offer a tour
of the dental area to highlight your anesthetic equipment and monitors.
7 OFFER INCENTIVES
Dr. Bennett has successfully implemented a "compliance discount card" program in her practice. When she first diagnoses dental
disease and recommends that the client schedule a dental procedure, her staff mails a $40 discount card to the client. The
card gives the client $40 off the final bill—but only if the client has the procedure performed within six weeks of the recommendation.
The time limit prompts many of her clients to jump on her recommendation.
Of course, there will still be many clients who decide not to pursue treatment. But if we've educated them, at least we will
have raised awareness. As Dr. Niedermeier says, "I don't succeed in booking all of these pets for services, but my approach
has helped make believers out of more clients than would otherwise opt for this level of care."
Dr. Laura McLain is an associate at Central Valley Veterinary Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah. Send questions and comments
or post them online at http://dvm360.com/comment.