New study highlights the benefits of therapy dogs to reduce dental anxiety

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A new study has highlighted the benefits of using therapy dogs to ease anxiety in nervous dental patients.

New research, which has been published in the European Archives of Paediatric Dentistry, claims that animal-assisted therapy is an effective means of helping anxious dental patients to feel calmer and more relaxed.

In the UK, it is estimated that almost 15% of 12-year-olds and 10% of 15-year-olds experience severe anxiety when going to the dentist.

Researchers analysing the impact of therapy animals separated more than 100 children aged between 5 and 10 years old into two groups: A and B. Group A received treatment in the presence of a trained therapy dog, while group B underwent treatment in a regular clinical setting.

Teams evaluated anxiety levels based on heart rate tracking and anxiety rating scales, which were scored by the childrens’ parents. Parents were asked for information about how their child had interacted with the therapy dog before the results were analysed.

The team found that anxiety levels were reduced significantly in the group of children who had treatment in the presence of the therapy dog. Children felt more comfortable with the dog in the treatment room and were less likely to experience nervousness and restlessness.

Therapy animals are used in a variety of settings. Dogs are commonly found in paediatric dental clinics in the US and there are a small number working in the UK. Many children gravitate towards animals, particularly dogs, and being with a furry friend can help to distract young patients and provide reassurance.

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