Loving puppies are created to comfort patients in dental offices, but is it hygienic?

Many dental offices across the country are bring a fluffy four-legged friends to help calm patients’ nerves and stress. From a cockapoo in Wisconsin named Charlie to a French bulldog in Nashville named PeeWee and a golden doodle in North Carolina named Beamer, people are realizing that having a dog around can help patients worry.

A study found that 1 in 3 Americans felt stress, anxiety and fear when going to the dentist. This has prompted dentists to think of other ways to calm their patients’ nerves. A little study found that patients who had a dog lying on their lap during treatment experienced lower blood pressure and general stress.

Similar studies have concluded that animals in healthcare facilities can help improve people’s moods and even reduce their pain. However, the increase in the number of comfort and therapy dogs in dental clinics has been accompanied by a lack of regulation. Many began to wonder if the dog’s presence put patients at risk of infection or dog attack. Similarly, patients allergic to dogs or who are afraid of dogs worry about their presence.

In North Carolina, patients complained of health and safety issues, prompting the state to approve a law allowing only certain types of highly trained dogs in exam rooms. This came into effect in June 2021 and is believed to be one of the only such regulations in the country.

The Americans With Disabilities Act allows people with disabilities to bring service dogs into healthcare facilities, including dentists’ offices. According to Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), they are unlikely to transmit infection in these settings.

Initially, the North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners make a rule this would have only allowed assistance dogs for people with disabilities. Patients and dog lovers flooded the board CEO with emails, forcing them to reconsider their strict rule.

This prompted the current rule to allow establishment dogs in dental offices as well. Installation dogs are trained in the same way as assistance dogs, but are also taught to help all kinds of people, rather than just one owner. Dogs work closely with a handler and are desensitized to sounds like dentist drills before entering the field. They must also learn to stay still on the patient’s lap during procedures when the dentist is working.

Many programs train these certified facility dogs, such as International Assistance Dogs Where International Animal Assisted Intervention. It also requires the handler to be trained and certified.

While some states may begin to implement these furry friends, others still resist. James Sparks, President of the American Association of Dental Boardssaid he would never bring an animal into his office.

“I can’t risk a dog jumping out while I’m working,” he said.

Related content:

For more content about animals, earth, life, vegan food, health and recipes published daily, subscribe to the Newsletter A Green Planet! Finally, public funding gives us a greater chance of continuing to provide you with high-quality content. Please consider support us by making a donation!

Larry A. Schroeder