Trying to get pet owners to comply with your dental health recommendations? Not easy. When you suggest Mrs. Smith use a finger toothbrush on her feisty calico, she’s probably more interested in keeping her fingers than fresh cat breath.

We headed to the Dr. Andy Roark Instagram (@DrAndyRoark)  to find out what veterinary professionals do to get pet owners to comply.

Money, Money, Money

From Instagram:

@barbiannc: Seeing a written estimate for a dental. Lol

@chibirudebiru: Letting owners know how painful dental disease can be to their pet and their wallet 🙂

@citypet: Cost of dentals


Money is a part of veterinary care we often shy away from discussing. Remember: You never have felt thrilled when a mechanic quoted you $600 to fix your brakes, but then when you go to retrieve your car,  it’s $1200. Transparency and communication are a must.

Start with prevention: A tube of pet-safe toothpaste and a toothbrush cost a lot less than a full dental cleaning with nasty extractions. Get pet owners on the right track by having them see the value in choosing the preventative care option that best suits their pet and lifestyle. Engage in conversations about pet insurance, and prepare pet owners by detailing the dental care their pet will need throughout their life.

Be transparent about expenses: Sometimes it’s too late for prevention, and even pets with relatively healthy mouths need a cleaning. When it comes to these more expensive dental procedures, be transparent about price by giving a treatment plan with estimated costs. Have an open conversation about any payment options you offer that could help break up the total. Whatever you do, don’t surprise them with a huge bill.

Let’s Get Physical!

From Instagram:

@frostlynda: Dental disease can cause damage to the kidneys, liver, & heart. Can you imagine never brushing your teeth?  Cleaning your pets’ teeth can add years to their life.

@drredreina: Putting the fear of rotten periodontal disease in them!


An unhealthy mouth can lead to many other health problems for pets. It’s not just about stinky breath making their pooch unpopular at the dog park.

Discuss progression: A little bacteria goes a long way! Take time to explain how bacteria building up in a pet’s mouth can lead to tartar and plaque build-up. Discuss how that bacteria can travel from the mouth and harm other parts of their pet’s body, like vital organs.

Define “periodontal.”: We use this word a lot in veterinary medicine, but put it in layman’s terms for more effective communication and better compliance. Telling pet owners that disease can ravage teeth, gums, and other areas of the mouth is much more clear to them.

Like Pet, Like Owner

From Instagram: 

@crystalrubyanna: Talking about dental disease and comparing their teeth to their pet’s teeth. “What if you didn’t brush your teeth for four years?” If they don’t want to do a dental because they feed dental or brush their teeth “you brush your teeth and yet have to go to the dentist every year!” Works well.

@clbellamy: Having a tooth pulled ;(

@drredreina: (M)aking them think how just going one day without brushing your own teeth feels gross.

It is estimated that between 9-15% of Americans avoid the dentist because of fear. (Source). 

Make it relatable: Ask pet owners if they’ve ever had a cavity or a broken tooth. Remind them of how painful periodontal disease can be so that they can relate to how their pet is feeling.

Use the “yuck!” factor: Hopefully none of your clients enjoy going days without brushing their own teeth. Use that parallel to get them on board with brushing!

Oooo That Smell

From Instagram:

@punkcollie: Did you know it’s possible not to pretend to enjoy doggie kisses?


Make it known: Bad breath isn’t normal for pets. The concept of “dog breath” is so set in pet owners minds that they don’t always know that there is an alternative. Paint a picture of a world where they could enjoy those puppy kisses.

Work the Exam Room

From Instagram:

@bigdealjen: Use the blue light in exam rooms. Light up that tartar!

@orangecountyvet: Be honest and direct. “Wow, Fluffy has really severe dental disease, tartar. Her teeth look bad, let’s take care of her by getting a thorough dental cleaning and digital x-rays so we don’t overlook any diseased teeth.” Also, assure the owner that right after the dental cleaning, we will implement an oral hygiene plan for prevention of dental.

@punkcollie: (C)ommenting on the health of the pet’s teeth during each exam so the owner can see the progression.


Step up your exam room communication and demonstration game so that pet owners see and hear the message you’re trying to convey.

Bring exam room communication to the next level: Check out Dr. Andy Roark & Dr. Dave Nicol’s online course, 7 Steps to Fantastic Appointments, by clicking here.

Follow @DrAndyRoark on Instagram

Want your feedback featured in a future article? Follow @DrAndyRoark on Instagram, and keep an eye out for our next question!

Danielle K. Lambert Archer headshotDanielle is a veterinary practice manager and the founder of, a website dedicated to teaching veterinary hospitals to use social media effectively. You can get her 5 favorite social media tools here, or follow her on social media to see excessive photos of her Brussels Griffon. She’s @DanielleSnout on Twitter, Instagram & Snapchat!