Dental trend to watch: therapy dogs

dental therapy dogs are on the rise in practices to help reduce anxiety in nervous patients


Picture this. A patient is at the dentist, waiting for their appointment to start when they feel a gentle nudge on their hand. They look down and meet the sweet, gentle gaze of a dog who has been trained to sense when they are anxious. When they pet its fur, they can feel their nerves melt away, making them more comfortable during their appointment.

If that scenario sounds like a dream, then we’ve got some news for you! An increasing number of dentists are utilizing therapy dogs in their practices, so we wanted to investigate this phenomenon. Read on to learn more about dental therapy dogs and how they can help patients.

Why are dogs used as therapy animals in the first place?

A therapy animal is a friendly companion that has been trained to help people cope with or recover from some physical and mental health conditions. While many animals can be used for therapy, including birds and horses, dogs have been domesticated for centuries and are easy to train. Plus, their sweet demeanors and ability to unconditionally love make them ideal companions.

Countless studies link the connection between humans and dogs to lower blood pressure, healthier lifestyles and reduced anxiety. This is why therapy dogs are deployed everywhere from hospitals to nursing homes to libraries.

Why are therapy dogs a good fit for the dentist?

Going to the dentist can be a nerve-wracking experience for many people. One study revealed that 61% of people worldwide suffer from some degree of dental anxiety, including one out of three Americans. Some even experience dentophobia, which is a severe fear of seeing a dentist.

Many factors contribute to dental anxiety, so dental teams are always looking for ways to help their patients feel more comfortable. Because therapy dogs are trained to put people at ease, they are a great fit for a dental practice. And when patients feel better about seeing the dentist, they are more likely to keep up important oral health habits and visit regularly.

Where can I find some examples of dental therapy dogs?

Want to see what it is like having your own therapy dog at the office? Here are a few dogs in action!

  • Dr. Steve, a miniature long-haired dachshund, snuggles on the laps of patients at NorthStar Dentistry for Adults in North Carolina. Per their website, he takes ear scratches and belly rubs as payment.
  • Milo’s job at East Nashville Pediatric Dentistry is to make kids feel more comfortable at the dentist. His profile says he specializes in “being a good boy.”
  • Princess will gladly share the dentist chair with patients at Modern Age Dentistry in California. As her bandanna says, “Dr. Princess will see you now.”

The bottom line:
Therapy dogs at the dentist are on the rise, as they can help reduce anxiety in nervous patients of all ages. Who knows: maybe a furry friend is a good fit for your own practice!