Going to the dentist can be scary for anyone. A person you don’t know wears a masks and uses sharp tools in your mouth that you can’t see. Nothing about that sounds pleasant—in fact, some people are even afraid of the dentist.
Going to the dentist is especially hard for people with autism. People with an Autism Spectrum Disorder can have difficulty communicating, they can be extremely sensitive to touch, and they might have difficulty with social interactions. All three of these things happen in the dentist’s office.
Because going to the dentist can be so stressful for people with autism, kids with autism are sometimes sedated to make the experience easier for the dentist. However, some offices are trying a different tactic to help people with autism feel comfortable at the dentist.
Diego Rosales is a 9-year-old with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. When he was younger, he was terrified of the dentist. Diego would throw fits and even bite the dentist while he was trying to work on his mouth.
Now, he loves going to the dentist. He still doesn’t love the work they do in his mouth, but he has something there to help him stay calm—a dog. Zucca is a black Labrador therapy dog who helps soothe patients with autism at the dentist.
Raul Varela, a dentist in Santiago, Chile has a son with an autism disorder. He noticed that his son was much calmer after spending time with a dog, so he decided to become a dog trainer who specializes in training dogs to work with autism disorders.
He also started a nonprofit organization called Junto a Ti (Next to You) that trains dogs to be able to soothe patients with autism at the dentist. Now, Raul’s son can handle going to the dentist. He knows that there will be a dog there to sit on his lap throughout the process to make it a little easier.
The dogs with Junto a Ti have helped over 50 children visit the dentist since the nonprofit was founded—but there are other organizations and offices who have similar therapy dogs to help people with autism. Recently, Zucca was at the dentist to help Diego Rosales during his trip to the dentist. Instead of crying and biting, Diego was able to calmly sit and pet the dog while the dentist worked on his mouth.
It’s incredible to see all of the different ways that dogs can help people. If you love dogs, you have to see this sweet video. An elderly dog was overjoyed to see what his Christmas gift was. Check it out here.