Patients With Anxiety Experience Relief With Dental Therapy Dog
Could a friendly dog help some patients get over their anxiety about visiting the dentist? According to KING 5 News from Seattle, it’s an opportunity some patients have with Dr. Bob Berman.
The Dental Fears Research Clinic at the University of Washington estimates that between 5% and 8% of Americans will avoid dentists completely out of fear, and an even larger amount, around 20%, will only visit when treatment becomes absolutely necessary. About 70% of these patients are afraid because they have had bad former experiences, while others have unrelated fears and issues, like PTSD, that can make it difficult to be comfortable in a dentist’s office.
Knowing this, Dr. Berman decided to take a unique approach to helping patients surmount their anxiety, and got his three-year-old Labradoodle certification so that he could help patients through their sessions.
Now, Humphrey the dog sits by patients’ sides, and they can hold his paw while they undergo a checkup or have work, like cavity fillings or crowns, done. About two patients ask for Humphrey’s help each day. Dr. Berman appreciates the assistance. While he can offer patients sedation dentistry, he prefers not to for certain procedures, since it can be helpful to know whether or not they are in pain so that they don’t need to come back at a later time for adjustments.
“Who would’ve thought when I graduated dental school that I’d be working with my dog next to me,” says Dr. Berman. Monica Johnson is one patient who has been changed through Humphrey’s help. Johnson experienced anxiety about visiting the dentist that was so intense, she went for 15 years before coming in. She called up Dr. Berman when she heard about Humphrey the dental therapy dog, and has since been in to see the dentist — with glowing reviews.
“I can’t believe I was this calm,” says Johnson. “It makes me cry. It’s that life changing for me to be able to do this.”