NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — An East Nashville dentist brings a support dog on staff to help children stay calm during their dental appointments.
East Nashville Pediatric Dentistry owner and dentist Dr. Marissa Sandidge said she had been looking for ways to make her patients more comfortable when she realized one of her employee's dogs would be an ideal therapy dog.
"Hospitals I've always been really impressed by," she explained. "They have like a child life specialist whose entire job is to make the patient comfortable, happy and give them a positive, positive experience. And sometimes they utilize a therapy dog and I always thought that's so genius. And if I can have a child life specialist walking around here, I would, but right now Milo will do the trick."
Milo is the practice's manager and EFDA Micaela Thurman's dog. She carts him in a stroller from patient to patient upon request.
"This is East Nashville. Most everyone has dogs and loves dogs and if they don't have a dog this is where they come in visit a dog so that the parent doesn't have to get them one," said Sandidge with a smile.
"I had been thinking about how I wanted to design my practice with a vision of my practice would be for years and part of that puzzle was coming up with almost like a menu of options of how we can make kids comfortable at the dentist," said Sandidage.
That menu includes fidget spinners, lap pads, post-appointment popsicles and Milo.
"[I've] been amazed by the turn of an appointment. So first appointments sometimes can be really rough for kids, and then we'll recommend Milo for the next visit and then they're perfect," explained Dr. Sandidge. "And it goes so well. And it's just amazing. That it's like feels like the simplest thing makes all the difference for our patient."
Some patients told NewsChannel 5 they look forward to going to the dentist.
"Before Milo was here, it made me—I did not like going to the dentist. It was making me nervous," said 9-year-old patient Penelope Nahay. "Now, he makes me feel very happy and calm because I love just like the little fluffy thing on my lap."
Sandidge said they are mindful of patients with allergies and those who simply do not like dogs.
"Milo is purely on a request-only basis," Sandidge stated.
After opening her practice during the pandemic, the dentist said her efforts were all about patient comfort.
"I really wanted to find a way to make it comfortable at the dentist but in a way that would like to make them turn into confident adult dental patients and kind of take down their boundaries and the barriers that were stopping them."