You can have a canine on your lap while your dentist cleans your canines.
A dental office in downtown Minneapolis offers a unique service for their patients — an emotional support dog.
Kline’s family first got Ollie at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when he was just a puppy and the dental office was temporarily shut down.
When Kline, 47, eventually returned to work, her husband and two daughters came in for a cleaning and brought their fluffy, 80-pound dog with them.
Kline’s husband, Jerry Kline Jr., is. a “very anxious patient” — but this visit didn’t seem so bad.
“While he was lying in the chair, Ollie jumped on top of him and fell asleep,” Kline told The Washington Post. “He wasn’t bothered at all by the dental noises.”
“Ollie helped my husband to relax — he said he felt better having him there,” she added. “That gave me an idea: What if Ollie could help some of our other anxious patients too?”
The idea was that Ollie could provide that stress relief and boost in happiness to those who aren’t completely comfortable at the dentist.
“He’s such a good boy, and he was really calming,” one patient, 61-year-old Debbie Zaiger, told WaPo. “I’m surprised at how much he helped.”
Previous research has shown that interactions with dogs, whether it be your own or someone else’s, can indeed boost your health — even if they’re brief, Nancy Gee, a psychology professor and director of the Center for Human-Animal Interaction at Virginia Commonwealth University, told NPR.
Gee pointed out that evidence found in studies suggests spending just five to 20 minutes with a four-legged friend can drop levels of the stress hormone cortisol in people.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has noted the observation that some people with pets at home recover from medical procedures more rapidly than patients without pets.
About 36% of people in the U.S. have dentophobia — a fear of dental treatment — with 12% having an extreme fear, according to Cleveland Clinic.
Dentophobia, also called odontophobia, can cause someone to have extreme anxiety at the mere thought of going to the dentist or while physically in the dentist’s office.
The owner of J&D Dental, dentist Jennifer Herbert, agreed with Kline that Ollie could give emotional support to patients who requested him — as long as other patients that day were fine with having the dog in the office, the Washington Post reported.
Though Ollie is not a service animal, Kline said that he is fully vaccinated to comply with guidelines and regulations set by the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).
She also ensured that everyone who works with patients follow the hygiene practices set by the American Dental Association.
Herbert, 51, sometimes brings her own dog to work to hang out behind the front desk and said she is a “huge dog lover.”
“Dentistry isn’t an easy profession — nobody tells us that coming here is the best day of their life,” she shared. “Having Ollie here has been a game changer. He brightens everyone’s day and he’s become a huge hit.”
Kline added, “He’s a very chill dog. Patients tell us that having him with them made it the best appointment of their lives. They feel like they’re wearing a warm weighted blanket.”
One patient, Sue Heger, claimed she had “bad experiences” at her childhood dentist’s office and was excited to find out about a dentist with an emotional support dog.
“It was the polar opposite of what I experienced as a child,” Heger, 57, told the outlet. “For 30 minutes, I petted Ollie while he rested his upper body on me, and I’ve never been more relaxed.”
Even the clients who aren’t uneasy at the dentist have loved having the four-legged friend around.
“I don’t have any [dental] fears or dislikes, but I did enjoy his fluffy presence on my lap,” Maya Norman, 42, told WaPo about her appointment with Ollie. “It was a great distraction. I don’t own a dog, but I do love them. An hour with Ollie and super clean teeth? Yes, please.”
Kline explained that if patients want Ollie to be with them during their cleanings, the pup will jump onto their laps and snuggle between their legs, laying his head on their chest.
Ollie is considered an employee at the practice and is even featured on their staff roster online. He clocks in once a week and typically sees about eight patients in one day, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.
“We don’t have him here every day because we don’t want him to work too hard,” Herbert explained. “And we want to make sure that everyone who comes to the office on those days is okay with him being here.”
But Ollie is a hard worker and wants to spend more time seeing patients.
“Ollie loves being around people, and he goes to the door every morning when I grab my jacket and purse,” Kline said. “He thinks now that he should be allowed to go to work every day.”