Dental Denial: How Pet Owners Get It Wrong

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Yesterday was a Thursday. Which can only mean one thing in my book: teeth!

Every Thursday I dedicate my morning to the treatment of all kinds of dentistry. Whether it’s simple preventive care or crisis management, it’s teeth, teeth, teeth all morning long.

Which you may think could get kind of stale. But the reality of our pets’ propensity for extreme dental disease means I’m always challenged by what I find. Consider yesterday’s group: Though I only treated four patients, it took me five hours and I ultimately extracted 18 (!) teeth.

What's Harder Than Pulling Teeth?

Make no mistake: It was a grueling morning! But what’s even more arduous and exhausting than actually anesthetizing four patients, X-raying their mouths, extracting their ailing teeth, and carefully seeing to their comfort as they recover happens way before they’re dropped off early in the A.M.

Indeed, the strenuous part has far more to do with convincing my patients’ people that their mouths deserve all that care.

That’s because teeth can be tough customers when it comes to getting pet owners to understand how important they are to their loved ones’ overall health — a common scenario that gives rise to a phenomenon I like to call “dental denial.”

Some Pet Owners Are Hard to Convince

Dental denial is part of a veterinarian’s everyday experience. It happens when we observe our patients’ mouths, present our findings, offer our solutions, and… well… get shot down. In other words, veterinarians are told politely that the advice on their pets’ teeth is welcome… but they won’t be taking it anyway, thankyouverymuch.

These are the pet owners who elect not to have their pets’ teeth routinely cleaned (in spite of all evidence pointing to its dire need), refuse to allow us to extract teeth, and/or won’t take even half-measure steps to help alleviate their pets’ pressing dental concerns.

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