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Beyond Traditional Care

Part of the Health Education Campus, the new 132,000-square-foot Dental Clinic expands opportunities for education and research while enhancing the experience for all patients—from children to seniors.

For many, a therapy dog can be calming. But how does the animal’s presence actually achieve this effect?

That’s the question Aviva Vincent tackled as a doctoral candidate in the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences. Now a Mandel School instructor and researcher, Vincent found enthusiastic partners in Case Western Reserve’s School of Dental Medicine and the Irving and Jeanne Tapper Dental Clinic at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital.

“Many children fear going to the dentist. What if we could change that?”

—Aviva Vincent

Instructor in the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences

With support from Salimetrics, a southern California company that analyzes saliva samples for research, Vincent assessed biological reactions such as changes in levels of oxytocin—a hormone associated with stress reduction—in 8- to 12-year-olds who had reported fear or anxiety in dental settings. In measures taken at various points before and after interacting with a therapy dog, oxytocin levels were shown to increase.

“Most dentists say the majority of their job is behavior management,” said Vincent, explaining how professors such as Gerald Ferretti, chair of pediatric dentistry at the School of Dental Medicine and chief of pediatric dentistry at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, supported her vision. “It’s been a really positive experience working with faculty in the dental school to help answer this problem.”