Could a friendly dog help some patients get over their anxiety about receiving dental services? According to KING 5 News from Seattle, it’s an opportunity some patients have with Dr. Bob Berman.
The Dental Fears Research Clinic at the University of Washington estimates that between 5% and 8% of Americans will avoid dentists completely out of fear, and an even larger amount, around 20%, will only visit when treatment becomes absolutely necessary. About 70% of these patients are afraid because they have had bad former dental service experiences, while others have unrelated fears and issues, like PTSD, that can make it difficult to be comfortable in a dentist’s office.
In other instances where PTSD and anxiety present barriers to patients, petting therapy dogs or even just the presence of a therapy dog has been known to help soothe them. In fact, there’s a whole slew of benefits that come with having a trained therapy dog on the premises with people who may be experiencing high levels of stress or anxiety.
Knowing this, Dr. Berman decided to take a unique approach to helping patients surmount their anxiety, and got his three-year-old Labradoodle certification so that he could help patients through their sessions. Dental therapy dog training is much the same as traditional therapy dog training, though there may be slight adjustments due to the medical nature of the job.
Why Dental Therapy Dogs?
But why would a dentist with therapy dog near me be helpful in that way? Are dogs allowed in dental offices?
The answer lies in the benefits that were touched on earlier. While therapy dog dental offices may require training that’s a little different than a traditional therapy dog, having a dental buddy has some concrete benefits attached for patients
Physical Benefits – Therapy dogs can physically alter responses to stress. In fact, studies have revealed that interaction with therapy dogs on any level can reduce blood pressure and even help with pain management.
Mental Benefits – Therapy dogs not only have an effect on the body’s physical response to stress, but they actively affect cognitive stress responses, as well. Therapy dogs can lift the mood of an entire room and reduce feelings of anxiety.
Social Benefits – Sometimes all it takes is a four-legged dental buddy to help someone feel more comfortable interacting with other people. In a dental setting, that may allow patients to more easily interact with their dentist.
Now, Humphrey the dog sits by patients’ sides, and they can hold his paw while they undergo a checkup or have work, like cavity fillings or crowns, done. But are service dogs allowed in dental offices? The answer is yes. In fact, about two patients ask specifically for Humphrey’s help each day. Dr. Berman appreciates the assistance. While he can offer patients sedation dentistry, he prefers not to for certain procedures, since it can be helpful to know whether or not they are in pain so that they don’t need to come back at a later time for adjustments. A dentist with therapy dog near me might be the solution nervous patients have been looking for.
“Who would’ve thought when I graduated dental school that I’d be working with my dog next to me,” says Dr. Berman.
Monica Johnson is one patient who has been changed through Humphrey’s help. Johnson experienced anxiety about visiting the dentist that was so intense, she went for 15 years before coming in. She called up Dr. Berman when she heard about Humphrey the dental therapy dog, and has since been in to see the dentist — with glowing reviews.
“I can’t believe I was this calm,” says Johnson. “It makes me cry. It’s that life-changing for me to be able to do this.”
Finding a dentist with therapy dog near me might not have been possible just a few years ago. Now, therapy dogs exist in all kinds of medical settings to help patients move past their anxiety and receive the medical care they need.