Keith Loria is an award-winning journalist who has written for major publications on topics as diverse as veterinary medicine, travel and entertainment. He started his career with The Associated Press and has held editorial positions at publications aimed at health care, sports and technology.
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Banfield Pet Hospital’s “2016 State of Pet Health Report” estimated that periodontal disease could be found in 76 percent of dogs and 68 percent of cats. A great opportunity to grow a clinic’s dentistry business, right?
The problem: Only a small percentage of pet owners choose dentistry work, and too few veterinarians push it.
One solution: a program from Midmark Corp. that provides dentistry training to practicing veterinarians and guides a hospital to lasting success in the dental arena.
“When you ask general practitioners, ‘How many patients do you see and of those how many dental procedures will you do?’ you realize they’re just scratching the surface,” said Andrew Schultz, director of business development and clinical services for the Dayton, Ohio, company’s Animal Health Division. “Unless they’re making a recommendation for every other patient to do a dental procedure and a professional teeth cleaning and assessment, there’s a lot of disease walking out the door.”
Midmark Academy was created so veterinarians can learn over two days all they need to know to see this segment of their practice grow. The series of courses is delivered in-clinic because “dentistry is a hands-on, skill-based endeavor,” Schultz said.
“We’re exploring all different ways to blend that learning into more efficient online and electronic formats,” he said.
The program was developed in collaboration with dental educator Cindy Charlier, DVM, DAVDC, and a network of veterinary technician dental specialists.
“The oral health care of our patients is a source of untapped patient care and practice revenue in most hospitals,” Dr. Charlier said. “The reason for that is often that, as veterinarians, we didn’t receive a good educational foundation in this area and we can’t diagnose and treat what we don’t know.
“Education and proper equipment are the keys to developing a standard of care for oral health care in the hospital,” she said. “We can impact patient care and make a difference.”
A year before Midmark Academy was created, the company brought together practitioners from five veterinary hospitals for a three-day pilot study that would serve as a recipe for success and shape what the program would become.
First, Midmark created a checklist of questions to establish a baseline. They included: “How much revenue are you running from dentistry?” “How many procedures do you do in a year?” “How does this compare to your overall revenue and your overall patient population?”
Midmark then looked at the equipment in the hospitals to make sure it was state of the art. Dental X-ray equipment was crucial, for good reason.
“When you look at a pet’s teeth in the exam room, you only have access to a small portion of the potential disease there,” Schultz said. “In fact, 80 percent of the disease that’s present in a mouth may be invisible or not visible because it’s below the gum line.”
Once the hospitals were equipped with the proper equipment, Dr. Charlier came in to conduct a three-day training session, followed by a “Double Your Dentistry” lecture that talked about the five keys to success.
“They closed down their clinic the first day,” Schultz said. “Probably the biggest differentiator in our training is it involved the entire hospital team, because the traditional method of sending a doctor or technician to a weekend wet lab and then trying to create a dental practice within that hospital failed. We understand that to incorporate change and motivate change with a program like dentistry, you have to involve everybody.”
The first day was a best-practices workshop in which the whole staff was taught the ABCs of dentistry so everybody could get on the same page and talk the same language.
“Days 2 and 3 were focused on clinical training for the doctors and technicians to give them the skills and the confidence,” Schultz said.
Client education and marketing also were taught, along with American Animal Hospital Association accreditation standards for a quality dental suite.
The success of the program led to the creation of Midmark Academy, where three days have been boiled down to two.
Huntley, Illinois, veterinarian Jane Stimac, DVM, and her husband, Joseph Seng, DVM, took part in the initial program.
“It helped us improve our dentistry business by simply allowing us to become better educated in dental care and provide this service to our patients,” Dr. Stimac said. “The entire staff was educated and onboard with the program. Our experience has been very positive in every way.”
One of the best pieces of advice she and Dr. Seng garnered was to properly educate clients and treat them and their pets with the compassion and respect they deserve.
“We would recommend this to other veterinarians so they can offer top-notch veterinary dental care and ultimately build their dental program, resulting in an increase in practice profitability,” Dr. Stimac said.
Also taking part were Steve Borowiak, DVM, of Warrenville, Illinois; Jane Boston, DVM, of Tampa, Florida; David Clegg, DVM, of Liverpool, New York; and Kurt Klepitsch, DVM, of St. Charles, Illinois.
“The whole program was very good,” Dr. Clegg said. “We knew we did good dentistry, but we wanted to do great dentistry. All the instructions certainly helped us grow that part of our practice.
“One of the biggest things was educating my whole staff and training my doctors to have the confidence to do the upper level of dentistry,” he added.
After one year, the five hospitals taking part in the pilot doubled their dentistry revenue as a percentage of their overall practice revenue, tripled their productivity measured by revenue per doctor and added an average of nearly $75,000 in incremental revenue, Midmark reported.
4 KEYS TO A SUCCESSFUL DENTAL BUSINESS
Success starts with the owner. Veterinarians need to understand and buy into the importance of dental health care and the need to improve dentistry within the practice. Also:
- The entire staff needs to be trained to look for signs of dental disease.
- A practice must be outfitted properly, especially with dental X-ray equipment.
- Market your dental services on social media and make sure clients are aware.
- Don’t rest on your laurels. Continuous improvement is important.