By Dr. Michael Fleck DVM
February is designated “Pet Dental Health Care Month.” Over the last decade, the quality of dental care for maximizing oral health in pets has evolved and rivals professional dental care for people with equipment, technique, and advanced oral procedures. Although an oversimplification, hygienic cleaning of the pet’s teeth involves both removing tartar and stains from the body of the tooth. Specifically, it includes removing tartar and debris from the teeth under the gum line area (periodontal) and reducing swelling, inflammation (gingivitis), and infection in the gums. Medically, a pet’s mouth with severe tartar and gum infection has a difficult time eating, digesting food, and exudes a horrible mouth odor. Additionally, the persistent presence of excessive bacteria in the mouth jeopardizes the viability of the liver, kidney, and heart. A hygienically clean mouth has been shown to extend both the quality and longevity of life of the pet.
Prophylactic cleaning and scaling of the teeth and gums is considered a veterinary medical procedure exclusively. “Anybody can basically use cotton swabs, gauze, dental floss, toothbrushes, or anything similar to clean an animal’s teeth. Anything beyond that would need to be under the direct supervision of a veterinarian,” said Monica Ochoa of the California Veterinary Medical Board’s enforcement department during committee and legislative hearings and adopted by the Board.
All U.S. Veterinary Medical Boards have adopted the same ruling. Groomers using dental instruments or machines for scaling tartar from teeth without direct veterinary supervision are illegally performing a veterinary procedure and are subject to penalties, fines, and possible criminal prosecution. For more information, check with your local State Veterinary Board.
The groomer can make an impact on a pet’s dental health by offering unique dental services and dental products. Recognizing that many pet owners have difficulty effectively brushing their pet’s teeth, professional toothbrush cleaning by the groomer can be offered as an add-on service during the groom. Just be sure to tell your client about any abnormalities or inflammation so that the client can check with their veterinarian. Additionally, pet dental brushes, pet toothpaste, oral rinses, and dental treats are generally consumer impulse buying products and, if available, a wonderful retail up-sale for the grooming salon.
Be an advocate for pet dental health by promoting good dental health for the pets in your grooming salon. Deter potential pet health problems, and you can help your clients save money and anxiety on costly invasive dental procedures. Your consideration of the financial rewards of offering dental add-on services and dental retail products clearly benefit the well-being of the pet and pet owner.