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Therapy Animals to Help Your Dental Patients
Over the past few years, several Australian dentists have chosen a unique approach to help their patients combat anxiety: therapy animals. In 2016, Elite completed a fitout for a client who introduced one of the first therapy dogs into an Australian dental practice. Since that time, interest in using therapy animals to help dental patients has continued to grow. So, in this blog, we explore a few common questions around therapy animals in dental practice settings.
What is a Therapy Animal?
A therapy animal isn’t just the office pet. Instead, a therapy animal is a “working” animal that fulfils a particular role (similar to service animals such as guide dogs).
Why Use a Therapy Animal in a Dental Practice?
A number of people – especially younger children – find the very idea of visiting a dental practice stressful or anxiety-inducing. Dental therapy animals such as therapy dogs can help to combat these negative emotions by providing a calming and reassuring influence and presence. Patients can hold, pat, or stroke the dog to “take their mind off things” and help ease their fear and anxiety during a dental procedure.
How Does a Dog or Other Animal Become a Dental Therapy Animal?
Dental therapy dogs and other animals must undergo rigorous training before they can “work” in a dental practice. This includes become accustomed to typical dental noises like drills and suction, learning to remain calm when patients and others around them are distressed, and being trained to put up with sudden movement, poking, or pulling that may occur when dental patients interact with them.
What Does This Mean For Your Practice’s Physical Space?
Unsurprisingly, there are strict hygiene standards your dental practice will need to meet in order to have a therapy dog or other animal join your team. Your therapy animal will not be able to go near certain rooms or certain equipment in your practice – all of which may affect your practice’s design and features. So, be sure to consult with the experts before you begin modifying your practice to introduce a therapy dog.
Your Dental Practice
If you’re considering fitting out a new dental practice or refurbishing your existing one (with or without a therapy animal), Elite Fitout Solutions can help.
Contact us today to discuss your plans and ideas for your dental practice.