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Furry friend helping to ease anxiety at Waco area dentist

A local office hopes Kona will help ease kids' fears about going to the dentist.
Published: Mar. 9, 2022 at 6:30 AM CST
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - Going to the dentist can be a stressful time for kids, and even adults, but a local dentist office hopes to ease the fears by using a furry friend.

Sheala Lansden, owner of Smart Mouth Pediatric Dentistry, said she wanted to introduce a therapy dog to her practice after doing some research on how they can help with anxiety. Lansden said they already use several other methods to help patients who may be nervous, and Kona, a goldendoodle, is another way she hopes to help.

Kona is still a puppy, so she’s not in full therapy dog training yet, but Lansden said there have been a few times where Kona has already helped patients in the office.

Lansden said whenever patients are worried or upset, they can take a few minutes to pet the pup and Kona eases their concerns. She added those concerns can be more common at the dentist’s office.

“I think dentists’ offices compare the pediatrician’s office can really benefit from therapy dogs,” Lansden said. ‘Because kids anticipate someone being in their mouth, which is a very vulnerable space. We use all the techniques that we can to help decrease that anxiety, but sometimes we need just a little bit more.”

Kona’s trainer, Alan White, said he got into training therapy dogs because of how they helped him in the military.

“Touching a dog’s hair can reduce stress,” White said. “Being around them, it’s just calming for people’s anxiety for different events, and so it’s a very calming effect to them.”

For now, Kona is only coming into the office a few days a week, but Lansden said they’ve had requests for her to be at appointments. Lansden said kids are always excited to see Kona when they walk through the door.

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