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Assessment of dental anxiety in children between 5 and 10 years of age in the presence of a therapy dog: a randomized controlled clinical study

Abstract

Purpose

Children are often afraid to visit a dentist. Dental anxiety is a worldwide issue and a barrier to successful treatment outcome. Pet therapy, especially through dogs, has been demonstrated to be beneficial in reducing anxiety. In today’s generation, where dopamine is prevalent, attention is hijacked, and children are tethered to screens—this research on animal-assisted therapy outlines the impact on children undergoing simple dental procedures, and to evaluate its use in long-term behavior management, and child and parental acceptance of this technique.

Methods

One hundred and two children between five and 10 years of age and requiring simple dental procedures were selected randomly and divided into two groups. In Group A, dental treatment was carried out in the presence of a therapy dog, and in Group B (the control group), dental treatment was carried out in a regular dental setup. Anxiety levels were evaluated by pulse rate and anxiety rating scale. Prior to exiting the room, the parents were asked to rate the child’s interaction with therapy dogs.

Results

According to an independent t test, reduction in anxiety was highly significant (p < 0.001).

Conclusion

Animal-assisted therapy is an effective behavior management strategy.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the therapy dogs, Pearl and Pepe, and the Animal Angels Foundation for providing us with therapy dogs for our research.

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Correspondence to T. K. Thakkar.

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Disclosure of potential conflicts of interest: The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Research involving human participants and/or animals

:This study was performed in line with the principles of the Declaration of Helsinki. Approval was granted by the Institutional ethics committee of Dr. D. Y Patil medical college (FRC/2018/Pedo./01).

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An informed consent was obtained from all the participants.

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Thakkar, T.K., Naik, S.N. & Dixit, U.B. Assessment of dental anxiety in children between 5 and 10 years of age in the presence of a therapy dog: a randomized controlled clinical study. Eur Arch Paediatr Dent 22, 459–467 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40368-020-00583-1

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s40368-020-00583-1

Keywords

  • Animal-assisted therapy
  • Behavior
  • Pet therapy
  • Dental anxiety
  • Dental phobia