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Ruff day at the dentist: Office pooch provides soothing presence at Longmont practice

Knowing Bentley will be there to greet them with a wagging tail and some affection can make a visit to the dentist something patients can look forward to rather than dread, Dr. Adrienne Hedrick said. 

Patients at Longmont Dental Loft know a lot about a canine, and we’re not talking a tooth.

The practice at 1325 Dry Creek Drive is the home away from home for Australian Labradoodle Bentley, who even has a title: “chief calming pawfficer.” And based on accounts of his owner, Dr. Adrienne Hedrick, and patients, he earns his kibble. 

“I’m a big baby grown-up when it comes to dentists,” said patient Ariel Bruni, who has been going to Longmont Dental Loft since Hedrick bought the practice seven years ago. 

But having Bentley on hand goes a long way toward erasing her unease. 

“I’m a dog lover anyway, but it does help when you have some anxiety to scratch his little head,” Bruni said. 

Another patient left a five-star review for Longmont Dental Loft on Google and mentioned Bentley by name.

Bentley, who is hypoallergenic and the perfect size for a lap, made his return to the office on June 29, and he hasn’t missed a beat when it comes to getting and giving the cuddles. 

Kept home as the office adjusted its safety practices in light of the coronavirus pandemic, the 2-year-old pup was eager for his return to work, Hedrick said. 

He’s been on the job since he was 8 weeks old and is the second office dog to spend his days at Longmont Dental Loft. The previous canine employee, a yellow Lab named Ellie, died at age 18. 

Adding Bentley to the staff, and to her home, took a bit of negotiating. Hedrick’s husband, Seth Mendelsohn, was dead set against another dog. But the stalemate was broken when she said she was visiting a breeder just to look. His response: “You can get a dog if you want, but I’m getting a Rolex.”

Mendelsohn has a nice watch and Longmont Dental Loft has Bentley.

The curly coated canine is a lover and his “pawsitivity” goes a long way toward taking the edge off for patients, Hedrick said. She recalled a pediatric patient with anxiety who was near tears before getting a shot. Bentley put his head on his lap, the tears were quelled and the procedure went smoothly. 

“He’s super soothing to patients,” Hedrick said comparing the pooch’s presence to the use of a weighted blanket for the calming effect it has on the nervous system. 

Plus, knowing Bentley will be there to greet them with a wagging tail and some affection can make a visit to the dentist something patients can look forward to rather than dread, she said. 

Safety precautions have Bentley spending most of his time in an office area away from patients unless a patient asks to see him, and patients are asked to wash their hands before going in for a belly rub. He  also isn’t working every day, and  Longmont Dental Loft is asking patients to request a visit with him in advance of appointments.

Bentley is not alone in being a dentist office dog. In a blog post, Seattle-based industry course provider DOCS Education highlighted a few dental practice office dogs as well as how the idea is gaining popularity. 

The blog post by Jane Schmucker cited how at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry, Dr. Ward Massey and Dr. Janet Yellowitz are interested in dogs in dentistry and are hoping to get a grant to expand their knowledge.

“‘A dog in the office,’ they say, ‘can often create an immediate bond between patients and staff. Seeing the dog leads many patients to start talking about their own pets, often pulling out a phone to show staff members a picture of their pet,’” Schmucker wrote. 

“People come in and tell you to your face, ‘I hate dentists,’” Yellowitz told Schmucker. “We don’t have a very good reputation out there. … We’re trying to change that paradigm.”

Julie Baxter

About the Author: Julie Baxter

Julie Baxter is The Leader's' assistant editor.
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