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If Elvis Presley is the King of Rock and Roll, then Presley Pruitt is the Queen of the Dental Office.

You see Presley is an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) that Dr. G. Robin Pruitt (’94) has incorporated within his practices at Vestavia Family Dentistry & Facial Aesthetics and Magic City Dentistry in downtown Birmingham, Ala. 

Everyone knows that going to the dentist can be a time of stress and anxiety. Sweaty palms, increased heart rate, fear of the needle, and just understandable fear of the unknown. That is all changing due to the Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) that Presley is providing to Pruitt’s dental patients. 

Presley Pruitt ,Queen of the Dental OfficePresley Pruitt, Queen of the Dental Office“We got Presley at eight weeks old and began her training. She comes to one of my dental offices with me every day,” said Pruitt. “The biggest thing is seeing how emotionally attached our patients get. She comforts many of our patients. It’s amazing.”

Pruitt says patients are actually looking forward to getting their dental work done. The six month old Presley is registered and certified as an Emotional Support Animal and continues with professional training to further hone her particular skill set. She is being trained to provide comfort and affection (and detect when people need it).

"I had heard about and seen other dentists do this over the past many years. It is something we were thinking about for quite a while, and in consideration of all that is going on in the world, we could not think of a better time to do this," said Pruitt.

According to Pruitt, there are several hundred dentists all across the United States who have been incorporating emotional support animals within their practices for years. He says there are several dozen within Alabama and Birmingham that utilize ESAs during their patients' dental treatments.

The American Dental Association (ADA), America's leading advocate for oral health, has taken a very positive, supportive, and pro-ESA stance for the several hundred dentists that employ ESA's within their practice for their patients.

According to Pruitt, “To know that you have the support and advocacy of The American Dental Association, which has been with us for 160 years and has 163,000 plus members is great. We all know that the ADA exists to power the profession of dentistry and advance the oral health of our patients, and as such, they are a strong advocate and supporter of ESA's in dental practices. The ADA says that the presence of an ESA should not require the dental practice to modify policies, practices, or procedures."

Presley is their ESA, but Pruitt said he considers her to be an Essential Healthcare Worker. He said that their daily quest is to alleviate the fear and anxiety that patients tend to experience at the dentist. Presley comes to work each day with him, and she rests in his office. Presley's "responsibilities" run the gamut from just sleeping all day and letting the occasional patient pet and visit with her to spending an entire visit in the operatory with a patient at the same time that the patients’ dental treatment is being performed.

"Having a therapy emotional support dog in the room with our patients during their dental work often takes their mind off the procedure being done and has them focusing on the dog instead," said Dr. Pruitt.

Just like her namesake, Presley has gotten a lot of media attention. She’s received rave reviews from Southern Living Magazine, Guns & Garden Magazine, and several other media outlets. But, it’s the patient reviews that mean more to Dr. Pruitt. “The reaction has been overwhelming. Everyone wants to see Presley. Patients take selfies with her and post pics…We have had probably 25 to thirty patients who have specifically requested to have Presley scheduled to be with them for their upcoming dental appointment…It has been super touching for me and my staff to see how Presley interacts with our pediatric patients,” said Pruitt. 

There are numerous Elvis Presley titles one can choose to describe Presley’s influence on the dental office. My personal favorite is “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You”!