When it comes time to visit the dentist, many people experience anxiety. Central Illinois Smiles in Decatur, Illinois, has a perfect way to help their patients out with that. That solution is Bob the comfort dog.
Bob’s job at the office is to make nervous patients feel at ease, and he’s very good at it. He trains with PawPrint Ministries, a central Illinois comfort dog training facility. His predecessor Hazel, who passed just a few weeks ago at 10 years old, also trained with PawPrint Ministries.
Dr. Katie Buskirk, a dentist and Bob’s mom, described the comfort dog duties:
“He greets everyone at the door. He likes to walk around and say ‘Hi’ to everybody that’s waiting in the chair. But mostly he just brings smiles to people’s faces.”
A Dog Can Really Put Patients At Ease
Dental anxiety can affect adults and children alike, and having a dog by their side really eases stress. Buskirk explained:
“One of the studies shows their biggest anxiety is when they are sitting in the lobby waiting to come back or when they are sitting in the chair waiting for the doctor. That’s when Bob comes in.”
Bob is just a year old, so he’s still learning at home and at the office. He does have the perfect sweet and cuddly personality for a comfort dog though.
“He’s kind of like a baby moose. He’s all arms and legs. But he’ll also sit and put his chin on a kid’s chest that’s crying. That’s kind of the natural instinct for him. He’s a big sweetie.”
Not to worry, as a Goldendoodle Bob is a hypoallergenic dog. He keeps away from the dental equipment, and from the patients that don’t like dogs (can you imagine?) It’s all safe and hygienic.
Some Big Paw Prints To Fill
Now that Hazel isn’t there to do the job with him anymore, Bob will need to step up and fill in for his big sister. Hazel worked for years as a comfort dog, even visiting nursing homes and other health facilities. Buskirk recalled:
“We had one parent say that their child had never gotten through an entire cleaning before. We were all crying all that day.”
The response to the office comfort dogs has been overwhelmingly positive. People now feel at home when they’re at the dentist. That’s a pretty big thing for a dog to make possible!