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WHAT IS A THERAPY ANIMAL, AND HOW CAN THEY BENEFIT DENTAL PATIENTS?

Posted by Roz on Mar 11 2021, 08:26 AM

Did you know that up to 80% of Americans suffer from some sort of dental anxiety?  Due to this, some of these patients do not receive regular dental care including routine cleanings and check-ups. Some of these patients will avoid the dentist at all costs. This is unfortunate, because not seeing a dentist regularly may lead to the patient needing more extensive (which is sometimes more expensive) care. Even worse, more extensive care may require the dentist to use more anesthesia and the patient to spend more time in the dental chair.  Which then, often times leads to feelings of heightened anxiety for the patient.

A therapy animal is an animal trained to play a role in a physical or emotional therapeutic treatment plan. Most commonly, this is a dog, but various other animals are also used for therapeutic purposes.

The bond between humans and dogs dates back to almost 30,000 years ago! Evidence discovered by archeologists suggests that dogs were the first animals domesticated by humans. It is believed that this started when wolves began scavenging for food from humans. Humans began to provide the wolves with food, shelter, and protection. From there, as these domestic wolves bred over thousands of years, they became the dogs we know and love today. Amazingly, a 12,000-year-old human skeleton was found in Israel with its hand resting on the skeleton of a baby wolf pup. This is just one example of the developing connection between humans and dogs over time. As dogs have evolved alongside humans, they have also seemed to grow a deeper connection with us.  

Animal therapy sessions, particularly with the use of a therapy dog, have been proven in health care settings as having positive effects on patients.  The effects include reduced stress and anxiety levels. Studies show that many pet owners experience physical and emotional health perks in connection with owning a pet.   These benefits include: lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and better mental health.  Why might this be? It has been found that dogs help to increase dopamine in humans, a neurotransmitter associated with feeling pleasure. In addition, other neurochemicals associated with love and bonding have also been found to be increased in humans as a result of their exposure to animals.

At Rota Advanced Dental Care, we believe in the benefits that therapeutic contact animals can provide to people. At our practice, we have two dogs, Fay Fay and Otis. We also have a talking macaw, Stanley. The three of them help to bring comfort and entertain, and soothe others within the setting of a dental office. If you suffer from dental anxiety, please do not avoid your regular visits. This could only make things worse. We are here to help you!


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