Animal Assisted Therapy in Dentistry


A cross-sectional prospective randomized study measuring physiologic biometrics and perceptions of stress during an orthodontic procedure with or without a therapy dog present.

Full Title of Study: “Animal Assisted Therapy’s Effects on Orthodontic Patients”

Study Type

  • Study Type: Observational
  • Study Design
    • Time Perspective: Cross-Sectional
  • Study Primary Completion Date: February 2026

Detailed Description

Patients will be consented, enrolled, and randomly assigned to a control group (no dog) or to an experimental group (dog). The patient assigned to the experimental group will be exposed to the therapy animal prior to the dental appointment. Pre-dental procedure and post- dental procedure surveys will be given to all the subjects asking the same questions. Biometric data will be collected by measuring heart rates of the patient/subject during the dental appointment with a Fitbit.

Arms, Groups and Cohorts

  • Control
    • No exposure to the therapy dog.
  • Dog Therapy
    • Introduced to a therapy dog and allowed to pet the dog for up to 2 minutes (timed) prior to the dental procedure.

Clinical Trial Outcome Measures

Primary Measures

  • Heart Rate
    • Time Frame: During dental procedure, an approximate total of 90 minutes
    • beats per minute during dental procedure
  • Galvanic Skin Response
    • Time Frame: During dental procedure, an approximate total of 90 minutes
    • Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) unit (Shimmer, Boston, MA) which uses phasic conductance and an optical pulse sensing probe. The small portable wristband device attaches to three sensors that are placed on the fingers of the non-dominant hand using velcro straps. The device will be placed on each subject a the beginning of each session and removed at the end of each session.

Participating in This Clinical Trial

Inclusion Criteria

Subjects must meet all of the following inclusion criteria to be eligible for enrollment in the study:

  • 7-17 years of age – Patient undergoing 1 quadrant restorative dental procedure requiring a handpiece (e.g. multiple fillings, sealants and/or stainless-steel crowns) – History of moderate dental anxiety with a Frankl score of 2-3 based on Epic chart review Exclusion Criteria Subjects presenting with any of the following will not be included in the study: – Patients with developmental delay/special needs, Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs), craniofacial defects, chronic pain conditions, and/or dental syndromes – No history of dental anxiety – Moderate to severe allergy to dogs – Previous traumatic experience with a dog and/or self-reported fear of dogs – Patients who are not receiving dental care requiring a handpiece (for ex, prophylaxis only) – Patients with severe, documented xerostomia – Patients receiving sedation (pharmacological and conscious sedation), nitrous oxide, general anesthesia – Patients who will have physical restraints placed during the dental procedure – Patient scheduled to have sedation or general anesthesia – Severe acute or chronic medical or psychiatric condition(s) that would interfere with the interpretation of results, and in the judgement of the Investigator, would make the subject inappropriate for entry into the trial – Patient with developmental/cognitive disability that cannot self-assent, comprehend and follow the requirements of the study based on research site personnel's assessment. – Inability or unwillingness of individual and legal guardian/representative to give written informed assent (from child) and consent (from adult).

Gender Eligibility: All

Minimum Age: 7 Years

Maximum Age: 17 Years

Are Healthy Volunteers Accepted: Accepts Healthy Volunteers

Investigator Details

  • Lead Sponsor
    • University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
  • Provider of Information About this Clinical Study
    • Sponsor
  • Overall Official(s)
    • Laura A Jacox, DMD, PhD, MS, Principal Investigator, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
  • Overall Contact(s)
    • Laura A jacox, DMD, PhD, Ms, 919-537-3424,

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