“Her paw is always available to hold.”

By Meghan Overdeep
September 25, 2020
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Credit: Vestavia Family Dentistry & Facial Aesthetics

Warm and cuddly aren’t words normally associated with the dentist’s office. Unless you’re a patient of Dr. Robin Pruitt, that is.

Thanks to the newest member of his staff, a toy Aussiedoodle puppy named Presley, patients are actually looking forward to getting their teeth cleaned at Vestavia Family Dentistry & Facial Aesthetics in Birmingham, Alabama.

As an emotional support animal, Presley helps to take the edge off for nervous and uncertain patients. She is being trained to provide comfort and affection (and detect when people need it).

Presley will place her head on a patient’s lap, climb into the dentist’s chair and wag her tail, or offer her soft fur to calm the patient and remind them that everything will be okay. For most appointments, she just sleeps in the patients lap during the procedure.

“Her paw is always available to hold,” Dr. Pruitt told Southern Living. “One little boy was having a tooth extracted and he just stroked Presley’s ears the whole time.”

Left: Credit: Vestavia Family Dentistry & Facial Aesthetics
Center: Credit: Vestavia Family Dentistry & Facial Aesthetics
Right: Credit: Vestavia Family Dentistry & Facial Aesthetics

The benefits of Presley’s presence extend to patients of all ages. Petting a dog can lower blood pressure, which can be great for those who have dental anxiety.

“Research has shown that dogs can improve overall health by lowering blood pressure, providing comfort, and improving mood,” explained Pruitt. “The human-animal bond is well established in the medical field and research shows that dogs can also reduce anxiety and improve the dental experience. But this concept, for far too long, has been lagging behind in the dental field. Until now!”

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Presley has been a part of the team at Vestavia Family Dentistry for six weeks now. According to Dr. Pruitt, patients are now beginning to request her when they are scheduling their upcoming appointments.

“A patient last week told me that she scheduled her appointment to come back to see me for her crown and that she was also scheduled to have Presley during her crown appointment” said Dr. Pruitt. “She’s starting to become in high demand among patients who want to spend their visit snuggling with her.”

Credit: Vestavia Family Dentistry & Facial Aesthetics

Dr. Pruitt believes that over time, more and more dental practices and health care facilities will make pet professionals like Presley an essential part of their practices.

What a good girl!