In recent years, dental offices have incorporated many innovative techniques to help their patients relax in the chair – music, TVs, aromatherapy and even spa-like treatments. But there’s one that really gets our tails wagging: therapy dogs.
Therapy dogs have long been used to help people, including veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and hospital patients who need morale boosts. But a furry, friendly face can also have a calming effect on patients who get nervous in the dental chair.
It takes special canines to become therapy dogs: They need the right temperament to be around people, including children. They also need to be able to deal with strange smells and noises, such as sounds from dental hand pieces, compressors and other equipment. To get an official certification, dogs must go through weeks of training to be able to handle a variety of situations and people. Even after the initial training is complete, therapy dogs continue to receive reinforcement training on a regular basis.
An in-office therapy dog may have to pass another test – the allergy test. Many practices try to get hypoallergenic dogs, which means they’re tolerable to people with pet dander allergies. But no dogs are 100 percent hypoallergenic, and some patients are simply not “dog people.” When allergies or phobias arise, therapy dogs are usually confined to certain rooms or spaces to ensure patient comfort.
Although therapy dogs may have been intended to calm patients, their work extends beyond the person sitting in the chair. They often visit people in waiting rooms while their loved ones undergo procedures – and some dentists have noticed that an office dog helps the staff de-stress during the workday, too!