Tens of millions of Americans avoid preventive dental care due to anxiety, a national health concern that’s received significant media attention over the past month due in part to the story of a dental-treatment comfort dog that went viral.

Fight dental anxiety with pets.

Dental Anxiety and Your Oral Health

Various studies estimate that between 5 and 10 percent of Americans dodge the dentist at all costs due to anxiety. Research indicates that a higher percentage — about 20 percent — only see a dentist when faced with a dental health problem.

But avoiding preventive dental care or the treatment of existing dental concerns can lead to more dangerous and costly problems down the road. Your oral health is intimately linked to your systemic health, and untreated dental problems can affect your overall well-being. Untreated gum disease alone has been linked to an increased risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack, stroke, and diabetes.

Benjamin Franklin’s observation about an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure is especially true when it comes to your oral health. And, to borrow a chestnut from another American leader, the only thing you have to fear is fear itself.

Fighting Fear with Fur

The use of comfort dogs and therapy dogs, canines trained specifically to ease human stress in certain settings and situations, has grown rapidly in recent years. Today, the soothing presence of these animals can be found in airports, medical facilities and other high-anxiety environs. They have even made their way into dental offices.

Over the past few weeks, pediatric dental care, has gone viral and received coverage from numerous national media outlets. JoJo is a certified comfort dog accustomed to the sights, sounds and smells of a dental practice who sits with kids suffering from dental anxiety during their checkups or treatments. The presence of a dog provides a distraction, but it has other benefits as well.

Significant research into human-dog interactions indicates that petting a dog lowers our heart rate and blood pressure, and stimulates the release of oxytocin, a hormone associated with feelings of pleasure and bonding.

Comfortable Dental Care and Sedation Dentistry

Of course, having a dog in a dental office has some drawbacks when it comes to allergies and the presence of certain medical conditions. But comfort dogs aren’t the only way to make anxious patients feel comfortable in a dental chair.

At Rochester Advanced Dentistry, our knowledgeable and compassionate team is dedicated to your comfort and satisfaction. Our office provides relaxed treatment settings, and we offer sedation dentistry to patients who experience dental anxiety but don’t want to put off the dental care they need.

If you’re due for a checkup or in need of dental treatment that you’ve avoided due to anxiety, please call Rochester Advanced Dentistry at (248) 656-2020 to discuss your options or schedule an appointment.