The Benefits of Dental Therapy Dogs (featuring Dogtor Gizmo)

Posted on February 20th, 2020 at 5:18 PM
The Benefits of Dental Therapy Dogs (featuring Dogtor Gizmo)

If you’ve visited the Sleep Dentistry office in the past few years, you may have met Dr. Kevin Mahoney’s furry, friendly assistants, Dogtor Gizmo and his brother Gadget. If you’re unfamiliar, you may be wondering what the tiny toy poodles are doing in a dentist’s office. Dogtor Gizmo and Gadget aren’t around just for show — dental therapy dogs put in serious time working and bonding with patients, particularly those suffering from a dental phobia or anxiety. As research supporting the benefits of therapy dogs continues to grow, more dental professionals are officially adding these comforting canines to their staff.

What is a dental therapy dog?

Dental therapy dogs undergo intensive training for obedience, temperament, and compassion. They are on-site for all or part of a dental practice’s office hours to provide emotional support for patients with dental anxiety. They ultimately help calm patients and make the overall experience more pleasant with wagging tails and loving hearts. Dogtor Gizmo has been a valuable member of Dr. Mahoney’s staff for nearly three years now and has made many friends both at the practice and throughout the community, volunteering his free time at hospitals and nursing homes to lift the spirits of children and seniors in need of companionship. 

How dental therapy dogs provide comfort

Dental therapy dogs, and therapy dogs in general, have been shown to offer the following benefits:

  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Lowered anxiety and stress
  • Increased social interaction
  • Enhanced mood and sense of happiness

A 2015 study conducted at Japan’s Azabu University revealed elevated oxytocin levels between canines and humans who gazed into one another’s eyes — oxytocin is the same hormone associated with bonding and trust between mothers and infants. It’s no wonder so many patients feel so much more at ease with a therapy dog in the room. They are non-judgmental and reinforce feelings of being with family or at home, comfortability, and control. As we discussed in our previous blog post, a feeling of lack of control is the biggest obstacle many people face in overcoming dental anxiety.

Dental patient being comforted by a dental therapy dog in Erie, PA

Child at dentist office with dental therapy dogs

How therapy dogs fit into a dental visit

Dental therapy dogs can be as involved as much or as little as a patient pleases; those with compromised immune systems, allergies, or canine phobias may not wish to come in contact with the dog at all. However, for the many that do welcome the distraction, here is how Dogtor Gizmo and Gadget may fit into your visit.

  • Before seeing Dr. Mahoney: Dogtor Gizmo will happily greet you and graciously accept pats, helping take the edge off with his cheerful demeanor.
  • During your appointment: Dogtor Gizmo can sit in your lap and snuggle with you as you receive your dental work.  
  • After your appointment: Glad it’s over? Dogtor Gizmo is too! And he's always so happy you stopped by to receive the dental treatment you needed.

When can I see Dogtor Gizmo or Gadget?

Realize the comforts of a certified dental therapy dog and the benefits of a healthy, radiant smile by booking an appointment with Dr. Mahoney any time Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Dogtor Gizmo and his assistant Gadget are happy to make friends at the office any day of the week.

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