If you’re afraid of the dentist, you probably can’t imagine ever saying something like “I can’t wait to come back” after finishing up your appointment. But this is exactly what started happening after I started using a new method with my patients. It’s really quite simple if you think about it.
And no, it’s not a valium!
Why Therapy Dogs Are the Best Solution Ever for Dental Fear
We’ve co-evolved alongside this animal for thousands of years.
Think of how anxious our prehistoric ancestors were, not knowing about the universe or where their next meal would come from or which predator would take them down at any moment.
Dogs were there to protect, help us hunt, and provide comfort in the struggle to survive.
Dogs also increase the production of oxytocin in the body, which is a hormone made by the brain which is critical to the healing process.
Dogs have gotten us this far. Why wouldn’t we still rely on our evolutionary buddies to get through the stress and anxiety of a dental visit? This is a no-brainer.
I’ve even seen jumpy kids sit still with this method — for surgery!
Afraid of the Dentist: Ben’s Story
Ben came into the office — not his favorite thing — and it was difficult for him to sit still.
Introduce Remy the therapy dog. The dog was more effective than if Ben had been superglued to that chair. During the procedure, Ben pet Remy as Remy sat in his lap and was able to stay still and — most importantly — stay calm and leave having had a positive experience at the dentist.
Kids like Ben are a great example of how therapy dogs can work in the dental office.
It’s so important for kids to have positive experiences at the dentist to set them up for a lifetime of oral health.
Here, what normally would have been a stressful experience was now a positive one and Ben was able to walk away from his procedure feeling good.
Now, he associates going to the dentist with a cute little puppy.
How to Use the Science of Therapy Dogs At Your Next Appointment
Bring your cell phone or iPad to your next dentist visit.
Call up this Pinterest board I’ve created with puppy pictures. Science has shown that a dog’s gaze can increase the production of oxytocin, which will help you heal faster get you through that appointment with less anxiety, and create a positive association that will help you make visiting the dentist regularly a healthy habit for life.
Mark Burhenne DDS
What do you think about therapy dogs at the dentist? Leave me a comment and let me know!