Animal-Assisted Therapy Lowers Stress At Dentist For Children With Disabilities

Animal-Assisted Therapy Lowers Stress At Dentist For Children With Disabilities

Santiago, Chile- The Universidad de los Andes, in Santiago, Chile had received an increase in requests for dental treatments for children with disabilities so they decided to introduce animal-assisted therapy into their practice. Dr. Andrea Ormeño, director of the Care Patients with Disability Diploma at the Faculty of Dentistry spoke with Dental Tribune online to discuss how this new treatment method is helping improve the dental hygiene of some of their younger patients.  

They decided to introduce the method about 5 years ago because of the demanding increase for dental treatment for kids with disabilities. Because this style of work is orientated to the children and their families in a regular dental practice it helps promote family interest in coming back for regular check ups. 

The patients that they have seen the most success with is child patients with Down Syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorder. Each treatment has a multidisciplinary team that takes care of the patient in a comprehensive manner. Dr. Ormeño says that they have seen that AAT improves social interation and communication and lowers stress levels in the patient. It has also made a visit to the dentist a less traumatic experience for the patients and they even look forward to it. 

When using AAT they first ask the childs family if they would be interested in trying the therapy and then they ask the patient. After they have a signed consent form the patient goes to a bonding space where the dog, the trainer and the dentist get to know each other. They do this to evlauate the interaction between all parties involved. This is done on a case-by-case basis, before making a decision about the possibility of moving to AAT in the dentist's chair. The therapy has proved that it is very valuable because of the emotional connection the patient has with the animal, thus calming him or her down and in turn allowing the dentist to perform their work in a far less stressful environment. 

All of the animals must be checked by a vet and receive all the necessary vaccinations and be completely healthy due to sanitary protocols. Before the dog steps into the practice, he or she is given a hygiene bath and a general checkup. During the treatment the trainer is the only person who is authorized to handle the animal.

One of the parent said that after a few AAT sessions her son was able to go into the practice and sit through an entire treatment and that they would recommend this treatment to other parents who's children have disabilities.  AAT has an hourly cost of about 75 dollars and that includes the trainer and the dog. 


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