Are you scared of the dentist? You’re definitely not alone. Millions of Americans avoid getting preventive dental care because of severe dental anxiety.

Dentophobia is a problem in need of a solution, and dental therapy dogs might just be able to provide one. Therapy dogs are well-trained, well mannered, and are able to provide comfort in a situation where someone is anxious, scared or depressed.

Kids That are Scared of the Dentist

A lot of kids are afraid of the dentist. Strange smells, the shrill whirring of the drill, looking at those strange, shiny instruments, all contribute to a sense of unease. A growing number of dentists are using therapy dogs to help kids feel more comfortable at the dentist. Dr. Paul Weiss, a pediatric dentist in Williamsville, New York, brings his dog, Brooke to the office with him everyday. “Brooke definitely changes the energy in the office with her personality,” Weiss says. “She elicits a playful, fun and happy energy, that permeates the staff and the patients.” Dogs like Brooke can help kids get their mind off their fears by interacting with them in the waiting room. In the treatment room, they can either sit by the chair where the child can pet them throughout the procedure, or maybe even curl up on the chair with the child to comfort them. They not only help keep kids calm during their visits, they also give them a reason to want to come back.

An Adult’s Fear

According to Peter Milgrom, DDS, Director of the Dental Fears Research Clinic at the University of Washington in Seattle, an estimated 5-8% of adults in the U.S. avoid visiting a dentist out of fear. A higher percentage, perhaps as much as 20%, suffer enough anxiety that they avoid going to the dentist unless it’s absolutely necessary.

All hope is not lost though. Dental therapy dogs are proving just as effective for adults as they are for kids. After all, who doesn’t want to make an appointment where a cute dog sits in your lap the whole time?

The Science Behind Therapy Dogs

A national program called Pet Partners, was founded in 1977 after researchers found strong evidence that animal companionship can help reduce blood pressure, lower anxiety levels, and stimulate the release of endorphins which make people feel good in general.

More and more dentists are incorporating therapy dogs into their practices and experiencing similar results. So if you or your child are scared of the dentist, try one that has therapy dogs! After all, who can be tense when they have a cuddly dog in their lap?

 

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