Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

Could a Therapy Dog Help with Your Dental Anxiety?

Image of Air Force Brig. Gen. Goldie, a facility therapy dog at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, helps reduce anxiety in a patient with complex dental conditions that require multiple appointments. The use of therapy dogs is part of an ongoing study with these patients. Air Force Brig. Gen. Goldie, a facility therapy dog at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, helps reduce anxiety in a patient with complex dental conditions that require multiple appointments. The use of therapy dogs is part of an ongoing study with these patients.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Total Force Fitness

Could dogs help improve military dental care?

A first-of-its-kind study at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center is researching whether using facility therapy dogs in dentists’ offices could reduce patient anxiety and improve outcomes for military dental treatment programs.

The study focuses on patients requiring complex dental procedures with multiple appointments. Each appointment can be very painful and create a lot of anxiety.

Significant anxiety is relatively common for dental patients and can result in patients declining to show up for treatment, explained John Schmidt, a clinical psychologist at the Naval Postgraduate Dental School located at WRNMMC, and one of the two leads for the study along with Navy Cmdr. Doris Lam. Lam’s dental master’s thesis led to the study.

Before their dental appointment, patients involved in the study are encouraged to meet with a facility dog that provides animal-assisted therapy at WRNMMC. The dogs are highly trained to provide comfort and companionship in a clinical setting.

The hope is that having patients meet with a facility dog can “decrease the amount of pain medication needed, and increase the probability that the person will continue onto their next complex dental appointment,” said Navy Hospital Corpsman Skylor Cervantes. She is one of two leading petty officers for facility dogs at WRNMMC in Bethesda, Maryland; and is participating as a handler for dogs in the dental study.

The goal is to reduce dental problems and enhance oral health and improve dental readiness.

“This is especially problematic in our military population as poor oral health care and missing dental treatments can directly impact mission readiness and deployment status for our war fighters,” Schmidt said.

Facility therapy dogs have been part of WRNMMC patient care since 2005. All of the canines receive initial service dog training for working with veterans. Before being assigned to a medical facility, the dogs also receive additional training and are screened for temperaments that work well in a medical environment.

Reducing Anxiety

The study at the Comprehensive Dentistry Clinic assesses anxiety levels by using self-reported measures of dental anxiety and satisfaction with care, as well as any missed appointments, Schmidt explained.

“All participants also have their heart rate monitored during each study visit to determine if the interactions with the facility dogs results in reduced physiological reactivity during dental procedures,” Schmidt said. This added measure is novel for a study using facility therapy dogs to address dental anxiety.

How the Study Works

In the study, researchers evaluate patients over the course of three visits. One group of patients see the dogs 10 minutes before two of three appointments. Another group of patients does not see a dog until the third appointment.

The patients also fill out questionnaires beforehand. These questionnaires contain three modules assessing dental anxiety, phobia, fear, and feared dental stimuli. This measure also assesses emotional, behavioral, physiological, and cognitive components of the anxiety and fear response, Schmidt explained.

Meanwhile, the dog handler stays outside of the room with the dog. “Once we go in the room, I let the dog do the work,” Cervantes said. “The patient interacts with the dog. They pet them, they can do different tricks with the dog just to get their mind off of what's going on, or what's about to go on.”

Some patients like to interact with the handler to find out about the dog, and other patients like to just focus on the dog itself.

”We try to make the patient as comfortable as possible. And the dogs do a really good job with interacting with the patient and keeping focused on the patient,” Cervantes said.

Anxious Patients

Cervantes explained how having a facility dog at appointments gives patients a more positive attitude and motivates them to continue their multiple treatments.

“It gives the patient something to look forward to, especially when they're introduced to the dog, Then we try to get them in on a day where that same dog can be there again, or they can see another dog if they want,” Cervantes said.

“Because of this interaction, they know the appointment is not going to be as bad.”

Preliminary study results are quite encouraging, Schmidt said.

“The patients love interacting with the dogs and many of the patients have reported reduced dental anxiety, satisfaction with the dog intervention, and have followed through with their dental care.”

The study began in 2016, but was paused during the COVID-19 pandemic. Schmidt and Lam expect the study to be completed next year, and present their findings.

What are USU Facility Dogs?

You also may be interested in...

Four-legged Major Brings Joy to Brooke Army Medical Center

Article Around MHS
6/23/2022
Labrador facility dogs at ceremony

Brooke Army Medical Center commissioned a new, four-legged staff member with a penchant for spreading joy to the rank of United States Army major during a ceremony June 6.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health

How Drones Will Transform Battlefield Medicine – and Save Lives

Article
6/23/2022
Drones carrying fresh blood products to wounded troops on the front lines may be critical for military medicine in a conflict against a "near-peer" adversary.

Emerging technology may use drones to deliver blood products for wounded troops on the front lines of combat. That capability may be critical in a "near-peer" conflict.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support

Army, Navy Public Health Officials Collect Weapon System-related Health Hazard Data in Support of Blast Overpressure Exposure Assessment

Article Around MHS
6/21/2022
Military personnel by M777 Howitzer

A team of scientists and engineers from the U.S. Army Public Health Center and the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center recently traveled to Fort Carson to conduct a Joint Service Member Occupational Health Assessment, also known as a JSOHA, of the M777 Howitzer—a weapon that is routinely used in military training and combat operations.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Health Readiness & Combat Support

How MHS GENESIS will become essential to patients' health journey

Article
6/21/2022
Dr. Robert Marshall, program director of the Department of Defense Clinical Informatics Fellowship at Madigan Army Medical Center.

Ensuring proper training of both providers and patients is essential for the successful integration and sustainment of MHS GENESIS into MHS care.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Health Care Technology | MHS GENESIS Toolkit | Electronic Health Record: MHS GENESIS | MHS GENESIS

LRMC CNS Fuels Progression in Military Medicine

Article Around MHS
6/17/2022
military personnel in neonatal care class

Army Maj. Rebeccah Dindinger serves as a Clinical Nurse Specialists at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Women's Health

Tactical Diaper Bags and Other Fathers' Day Tips from a Marine Officer

Photo
6/16/2022
Tactical Diaper Bags and Other Fathers' Day Tips from a Marine Officer

An experienced military dad offers advice to new service members beginning their parenting journey.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness

Tactical Diaper Bags and Other Fathers' Day Tips from a Marine Officer

Article
6/16/2022
Tactical Diaper Bags and Other Fathers' Day Tips from a Marine Officer

“When we deploy, our lives become simpler, while theirs become more complex: In addition to missing their husband and father, they are missing someone who should be helping to shoulder the burden that military life places on kids.”

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness

Protecting Your Hearing and Vision is a Personal Readiness Mission

Photo
6/14/2022
Protecting Your Hearing and Vision is a Personal Readiness Mission

Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Dominique Campbell drives a forklift on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) during a vertical replenishment. She is wearing proper hearing and vision protection.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support

Medical Readiness Training Exercise strengthens local partnerships and skills

Article Around MHS
6/13/2022
Military personnel working together during a global health engagement

As part of the U.S. Southern Command’s enduring partnership to Central America, Joint Task Force-Bravo executed a three-day Global Health Engagement in Comayagua, Honduras, June 1-3, working side by side with local military and Ministry of Health personnel.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support

Expectant Moms Have Group Option for Prenatal Care

Article Around MHS
6/10/2022
Midwife helps expectant military mom during pregnancy

The San Antonio Market offers a group obstetric model for pregnant women at Brooke Army Medical Center.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Women's Health

DGMC Trains Medics on TCCC, Boost Readiness for Next Battle

Article Around MHS
6/9/2022
Military medical personnel in classroom

Medics at David Grant USAF Medical Center on Travis Air Force Base, California, are being trained monthly during a week-long course on tactical combat casualty care in an Air Force-wide initiative to standardize medical readiness training for all service members.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Health Readiness & Combat Support

How Military Medicine Is Preparing for the Next Conflict

Article
6/8/2022
As the Pentagon prepares today’s force for a “near-peer” fight against a large military adversary, the Military Health System is challenged to provide life-saving support for large-scale and dispersed operations.

As the Pentagon prepares today’s force for a “near-peer” fight against a large military adversary, the Military Health System is challenged to provide life-saving support for large-scale and dispersed operations. That’s especially true for the medics supporting troops on the front lines.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Health Care Technology | Education & Training | Medical Education and Training Campus

Army Doctor Earns Top Honors at Air Assault School at Fort Campbell

Article
6/3/2022
Army Doctor Earns Top Honors at Air Assault School at Fort Campbell

This Army doctor finished at the top of his class at the Air Assault School at Fort Campbell. It's a 10-day course that is both physically and academically challenging, teaching soldiers the foundations of heliborne operations to include troop transportation, sling loaded cargo and equipment transportation, medical and casualty evacuation operations, and air assault operations.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support

Medical Readiness Key to Lead-Wing Deployment

Article Around MHS
6/2/2022
2rd OMRS medical insignia patch

Air Combat Command has tasked the 23rd Wing to be Lead-Wing ready in October of 2022 and medically preparing Airmen for a Lead-Wing deployment is no small feat.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Health Readiness & Combat Support

Tips for Military Parents Planning PCS Moves with Children

Article
6/2/2022
Moving can be hard on military families, especially on children. Moving to a new home, going to a new school, finding new friends – it can be unsettling for kids of any age. Yet there are things that service members can do to prepare for a permanent change of station move that can make for a smoother transition for the children.

Moving can be hard on military families, especially on children. Moving to a new home, going to a new school, finding new friends – it can be unsettling for kids of any age. Yet, there are things that service members can do to prepare for a permanent change of station move that can make for a smoother transition for the children.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Total Force Fitness
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 31 - 45 Page 3 of 43
Refine your search
Last Updated: June 07, 2022

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.