Here at Westfall Orthodontics, our mission is to provide every patient with a safe, comfortable, and stress-free orthodontic experience. Our offices in Abingdon, Bristol, and Richlands are state-of-the-art facilities designed with your comfort in mind, while our friendly team ensures you feel welcome from the moment you walk in the door. Now we have another tool to help our patients stay calm and relaxed at every appointment: Molly, our new therapy dog!
Animal-assisted therapy in orthodontic offices
You’re probably already familiar with the concept of service dogs, who are trained to assist people with a variety of needs. These animals help their owners achieve increased independence and a level of mobility that they may not otherwise have. Some can predict an oncoming seizure, while others are able to detect dangerous changes in blood sugar for diabetic patients. They can enhance and save the lives of those they work with!
In the last several years, we’ve seen an increase in the use of “therapy” animals to help people suffering from severe anxiety or depression. These can be almost any animal, from plain old cats and dogs to more exotic choices like llamas and miniature pigs. Currently, dogs are the most common therapy animal and also the most researched. That means there’s quite a bit of scientific evidence explaining how and why a therapy dog can benefit people in a variety of different situations.
What are the benefits associated with therapy dogs?
Research that’s been conducted into animal-assisted therapy shows that most patients respond well to the presence of the right animal. It can help nervous patients feel secure in an anxiety-inducing atmosphere and provide them with a more positive experience overall. While there’s still ongoing research into the exact physiological changes produced by therapy dogs, some of the proven benefits thus far are:
- lowered blood pressure
- improved mood
- reduced anxiety
- a boost in immunity
- improved social interactions
These benefits can drastically improve the experience someone has in our office!
That being said, we know not everyone is a dog person. Some patients are allergic, while others are scared of dogs. While the risk of transferring an illness from dog to human is extremely low, patients who have a compromised immune system or severe allergies are generally not considered to be candidates for treatment with a therapy dog present. Some people just flat out don’t like them—and that’s okay, too!
If you fall into one of these categories, rest assured that you won’t see or hear Molly unless you specifically request it. While we want all our patients to know that Molly is around if needed, we don’t want to concern anyone who isn’t interested in this option. Please let us know if this sounds like you before your appointment, and we’ll ensure that all your needs are taken care of.
Say hello to Molly
Molly is a Shih-Poo, which is a cross between a Shih Tzu and a Toy Poodle. Shih-Poos are lively and affectionate little dogs with an abundance of infectious energy. You’ll be amazed by how friendly and eager she is to help you out if you’re feeling nervous about your appointment. She’s smart as a whip, too!
An added bonus about Molly’s breed is that she is hypoallergenic—because she barely sheds at all, dander isn’t released into the air and won’t collect on any surfaces. That means less sneezing and sniffling from anyone who is sensitive to dander! We only considered hypoallergenic breeds in our search for the perfect therapy dog because we wanted as many patients as possible to have access to her.
Molly will be traveling with Dr. Westfall to all three of our office locations. Her extensive training will help her effectively ease any stress or worry our patients (or parents!) are feeling. The quick mood boost you get from petting a dog can also reduce anxiety and take your mind off any procedures you’re having done.
Kick back and relax with Molly the therapy dog at Westfall Orthodontics
The psychological benefits of therapy dogs have been well-documented. As part of our commitment to creating a comfortable orthodontic atmosphere, we’re proud to offer this exciting new option to our patients. If you’d like to schedule an appointment or a free consultation, get in touch today. We can’t wait to see your smile—and we can’t wait for you to meet Molly!