Going to the dentist can literally be like getting teeth pulled for some people, but a clinic in Victoria has found a unique way to put smiles back on patients’ faces.

Rigby and Gryphon, two five-year-old English sheepdog and poodle crosses, happily greet patients who show up to In-Harmony Dental Clinic with extreme nerves.

It’s a type of therapy that has helped some patients get over their fears of sitting in the dentist’s chair.

“When I came here I was a total mess,” says Heather McFarlane. “I was terrified of the dentist, I put if off for a really long time. I think I put it off for about eight years.”

But that changed when she met the two pups, who are part of a team designed to combat dental anxiety.

“Dogs are just super awesome, they can take whatever negative feelings you have and give you something back, the unconditional love thing,” says McFarlane.

Dr. Alex Darrach-Cottick and wife Kate Darrach-Cottick say the paws-on approach to calming dental patients has been nothing short of dazzling.

“There’s no other way to put it, [they’re] celebri-doodles,” says Kate. “Touching a soft dog, it acts like a bridge between us making promises to them, and them being able to believe it.”

The same thinking has previously brought dogs to university campuses in B.C. including UBC and BCIT, where students experiencing exam-season stress calmed down by petting special therapy animals.

“The patients who have had severe dental anxiety and have worked with Kate and the dogs, it’s changed their lives,” says Alex. “Gryphon is a simple dog, he’s very bouncy. Rigby is much more of a thinker.”

The dogs, which are certified therapeutic service dogs, are considered to be such an important part of the staff at In-Harmony that they’re even listed on the clinic website’s “Meet the Team” page.

The website also features a dental anxiety quiz for patients who are nervous about their visit to help determine which actions they can take to soothe their fears.

With a report from CTV Vancouver’s Bhinder Sajan