Ahwatukee dentist employs therapy dogs to calm patients' fears

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(Source: Foothills Family Dental) (Source: Foothills Family Dental)
(Source: Foothills Family Dental) (Source: Foothills Family Dental)
(Source: Foothills Family Dental) (Source: Foothills Family Dental)

You've seen them in schools, hospitals, even senior centers. But what about the dentist office?

Therapy dogs have a way of making people feel better, and that caught the attention of a dental office in Ahwatukee.

Dr. Anita Marra said she came up with the idea of bringing therapy dogs into the office after seeing how well they interacted with kids at local hospitals and clinics.

[RELATED: Bidwill therapy dog spreads love, Cards spirit to PCH patients]

Marra and her husband Bob had worked with therapy animals before and thought they'd be perfect for helping dental patients overcome their fear and anxiety.

"It's amazing how much it calms down patients," Marra said. "We are using less nitric oxide, less local anesthetic. Even patients who aren't afraid say it's much more relaxing."

The two therapy dogs roaming the halls at Foothills Family Dental office are mini Goldendoodles named Mia and Bella.

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Some patients want the dogs with them for their entire procedures. Others use them just when they sit down.

"Yeah, I think that it's kind of soothing," patient Cody Damron said. "I have a dog at home, a similar type of dog, so it just feels relaxed."

Mia and Bella are hypoallergenic, don't shed, and don't interfere with what's going on, Marra said.

"They know to stay in someone's lap or on a chair beside them, and they stay away from the sterile working field environment we are working in," Marra explained. "They know to leave it and not pick anything up."

Mia and Bella are both officially licensed therapy dogs and have been working at the dental office since January.

"I'm really amazed at how valuable they've become to our practice," Marra said. "I think you'll see a lot more of it."


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Jason Barry
Jason Barry has been reporting in the Valley since 1997.

Click to learn more about Jason.

Jason Barry

Jason Barry has been reporting in the Valley since 1997.

He is a nine-time Rocky Mountain Emmy Award winner who is best known for his weekly Dirty Dining reports, which highlight local restaurants with major health code violations.

Jason was born in Los Angeles and graduated from the University of Miami.

An avid sports fan, Jason follows the Diamondbacks, Cardinals and Suns with his wife, Karen, and son, Joshua.

His favorite stories to cover are the station’s Pay it Forward segments, which reward members of the community with $500 for going ‘above and beyond’ the call of duty to help others.

Jason, started his career at WBTW-TV in Florence, SC before moving to WALA-TV in Mobile, AL, was named the Associated Press Reporter of the Year in 2002.

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