New Brunswick clinic making ‘paw-sitive’ impact on fear of visiting the dentist

Click to play video 'Golden retriever helping those anxious of the dentist' Golden retriever helping those anxious of the dentist
WATCH: A dental clinic in Moncton has come up with a “paw-sitive” way to help people cope with their fears. Shelley Steeves reports.

If you are anxious about going to the dentist, you’re not alone.

But Mountain View Dental Clinic in Moncton has come up with a very “paw-sitive” way of helping people cope with their fears.

READ MORE: Edmonton dentist practises medical hypnosis to help ease patients’ fears

The clinic’s office manager, Scott Kennedy, is training his two-year-old Golden Retriever to become a very special kind of dental assistant.

“We thought that getting a therapy dog to come in could sort of mitigate some of that anxiety,” Kennedy says.

He’s certifying his dog, Fenway, through Saint John Ambulance’s therapy dog program.

Nine-year-old Madison McDermaid of Moncton used to be afraid of the exam chair but says having a friend like Fenway in the room helps ease her nerves.

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“It is way easier and it is actually pretty fun,” McDermaid says.

Kennedy says he got the idea after seeing an article about therapy dogs in a Canadian Dental Association publication.

It’s an idea that Dr. Jennifer Tower, one of the clinic’s dentists, supports.

Tower says that Fenway is not just helping kids but a lot of adults who are nervous about sitting in her chair.

“Everyone has a story from the older population where they have been to the dentist in the past and had a fearful experience, and [for the] younger ones, it is just new for them, so there is a little bit of anxiety there, too,” she says.

But when Fenway sits with patients who are feeling uneasy and nuzzles in for a few pets, all of that stress goes away, leaving patients feeling a sense of calm.

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“He makes me feel like I have an extra friend in the chair,” Madison says.

READ MORE: Edmonton clinics give entire day’s income to charity with ‘Dentistry for a Cause’

“He just loves people and loves any kind of attention and he is super gentle,” says Kennedy, adding that Fenway may even help dentists at the clinic cut down on the use of drugs like laughing gas and anxiety medications.

“If we can mitigate anxiety in a natural way I think that is the best way to go.”

The hope is that this new therapy dog program could even be encouraging more people to get regular checkups and cleanings, leading to better oral health.