Allowing a dog or other animal to sit with a patient in a dentist’s chair for therapeutic purposes sounds like a great idea, especially to put the patient at ease.
However, I urge caution, especially because some people are allergic to animal hair and also because medical facility cleanliness is at stake.
A couple of weeks ago, CTV News had a story about a dentist office in Quebec that allows a zootherapist to bring a dog there for patients to cuddle with.
One patient is interviewed about their experience with the dog. The patient says they dreaded the thought of going to the dentist and wanted to make excuses not to go. But the dog puts their mind at ease.
The dentist also touts the service as beneficial for patient relaxation.
I don’t discount the therapeutic value of having an animal on site for patient well-being.
Moreover, I appreciate that many people, especially children, are fearful of going to the dentist. I had that fear for many years after a bad experience with a dentist, when I was five or six years old.
This was the first time I had a toothache, so my parents took me to the dentist. I wasn’t aware of what was going to happen and no preparation was made for me.
The dentist just went ahead and drilled my teeth out, with no anesthetic or my parents’ permission to do this. I was absolutely hysterical when my parents came to get me. They weren’t happy with the outcome, so they never took me back to him.
Because of that incident, and the memory I had, it was many years before I lost my fear of the dentist and even now I have a bit of reluctance. So, yes, I can identify with those who would rather go any place else but to the dentist.
However, my concern about dog visits to a dentist’s office is the cleanliness of the animal. The dog that appeared in the CTV News report was well kept and calm, as per the zootherapist’s requirements.
But because a dentist’s office is a medical facility like a clinic or a hospital, you can’t discount the possibility that the animal might carry a ticks, fleas or a communicable disease. And as mentioned earlier, a patient might be allergic to animal hair that the dentist office isn’t aware of.
I am also reminded of a video I saw on Facebook. In this video, a dog goes into a hospital to provide comfort to a patient. The question is posed, should animals be allowed into hospitals for this purpose?
Again, I appreciate that an animal can provide therapeutic support for patients. But also again, I urge caution when it comes to a hospital environment, especially given that some hospitals have trouble keeping ‘superbugs’ from establishing themselves in those locations.
Animals are beneficial in other ways, such as guide dogs. I have a wheelchair-confined friend who looks after retired guide dogs. I”ve had visits with him and some of the dogs he’s looked after, and he’s great with them.
All in all, I’m open to the possibility of dogs visiting dentists’ offices for therapeutic purposes. But caution is certainly warranted.