Going to the dentist usually ranks low in popularity for most people. The sound of the drill and the anticipation of pain are two main reasons. But people are flocking to the Dr. Carole Ann Boyd dental office in Dallas from as far away as Palm Springs, California, and New York City.
Two reasons: Dr. Boyd and her intuitive and friendly four-legged assistant, Max the giant Poodle. Together, they team up to make dental appointments as pleasant and stress-free as possible.
Yep, Max is a dog – and arguably the most active dog in human dentistry. Max is a 6-year-old 72-pound gray Poodle with a fluffy, fun look and quick smile designed to take the “bite” out of dental visit panic and inject calmness and happiness to all who sit in the dental chair. He does not shed or drool and has completed nearly three years of dog training from basic obedience to certified therapy dog status.
“I’ve never met a dog like Max before,” says Dr. Boyd. “He is so intuitive and really seems to tune into the emotional states of our patients to help them relax and feel calm.”
Drawing Reluctant Patients
Max was a big reason why David Tylicki, of Dallas, made his first dental visit in nearly 25 years.
“I admit I was scared to go to a dentist, but my tooth started hurting and I suspected I had a cavity,” says Tylicki. “Dr. Boyd has a solid reputation as a dentist and when I heard about Max, I knew I definitely had to go there to get my cavity filled. Max put his big fluffy head on my lap while Dr. Boyd did the procedure and I stayed calm. What a great dog!”
Scott Swanson travels from Fort Worth to receive regular dental care at Dr. Boyd’s clinic. “I needed three crowns, but Dr. Boyd explained everything, and having Max to pet makes everything so much better,” he says.
How Max Helps
Once you check in with receptionist Brandy Green in the waiting room, look for Max to bound your way to greet you.
“Max has the greatest personality,” says Green, who shares her home with a pair of dogs named Shay and Chico. “He can tell when certain patients are anxious and does his best to help them relax. He takes the whole environment here in our dental office to a new, wonderful level.”
Dr. Boyd has trained Max with a verbal cue – “give comfort” — and a hand signal, motioning to him with two fingers when a nervous patient gets into the dental chair.
“These are his cues to go over and gently lay his head on the patient’s lap and allow the person to pet him,” says Dr. Boyd. “He is very good at absorbing any anxiety or stress in the patient during the dental appointment.”
Tricia De La Torre, who has been a registered dental assistant for 28 years, adds, “Body language is very important for us to notice in our patients right away. A person may be clenching their hands, have sweaty palms, fidget in the chair, or get quieter. But when Max is there, they relax. Max gives off such calming, happy vibes. I’ve never seen anything like this in any dental office before.”
Pat Curry is a registered dental hygienist who welcomes Max while she is doing a dental cleaning on a patient’s teeth and gums.
“He is such a calming dog,” she says. “If there is a high blood pressure reading on a patient, I will call Max in and he lays his head on their leg and the person’s blood pressure goes down.”
In addition to Max, Dr. Boyd relies on other ways to reduce stress and anxiety in her patients. Instead of a patient staring at old posters on a wall, she treats them to a slide show on a monitor that features some of her eye-catching photos taken during trips to scenic places like Paris, Key West, Kenya, London, and Canada. There are also photos she has taken of coral and fish while scuba diving in places such as Ambergris Caye in Belize.
Communication is Key
She is also big on communicating each step with her patient.
“I try to treat people the way I would like and I tell people what to expect,” she says. “Before I give an injection, I will say, ‘You will feel a pinch now.” I use new anesthetic that does not burn like old ones used. And I tell them to breathe. That is my big slogan for life.”
When Max isn’t on duty at the dental office, he dons his therapy pet vest and visits people at rehab centers and respite care centers in the Dallas area.
“I got lucky when I got Max,” says Dr. Boyd. “He has a big Facebook following that includes people from 36 countries. He is well-trained, thanks to our classes at What A Great Dog, and he is one special dog. I am happy to be forever known as Max’s mom.”
This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.