Emotional Support and Stress Reduction in the Pediatric Dental Setting :Therapy Dog As Part of the Dental Team

Saturday, October 24, 2015
Liberty Salons I-K (Marriott Marquis)
Rena J Christman, DMD, MPH, St. Josephs Hospital, Chippewa Falls, WI and Olivia Johnson, DVM, MS, County Veterinary Clinic, Bloomer, WI

Case Report:

Emotional Support and Stress Reduction in the Pediatric Dental Setting: Therapy Dog as Part of the Dental Team


Dental visits can be stressful not only for the adult but also for the pediatric dental patient. Stress related to dental appointments may be caused by previous negative dental experiences, fear of pain, and influence of dentally fearful family members. The interventions used in the pediatric dental setting remain those that have been in practice for years, including tell-show-do, behavior management,  parental support, and various sedation techniques. Having the opportunity to expand this "tool box" with innovative and fun additions/alternatives can make the difference between the child wanting to attend appointments (actively asking to go to the dentist) and refusal to attend leading to broken appointments.  More commonly today than ever, therapy dogs are being utilized not only as service animals for patients with disabilities, but also as support animals for those with emotional or stress-related anxiety. Therapy dogs are commonly seen in hospitals, libraries, hospice centers, disaster relief sites, as well as schools and physician offices. Very recently, therapy dogs have been introduced to the dental setting as part of the emotional support team for both adult dental treatment and pediatric dental treatment. This work intends to inform about the incorporation of a therapy dog into a pediatric dental setting.

Keywords: emotional support animal, therapy dog, dental anxiety, dental stress, pediatric dentistry