Brief relaxation versus music distraction in the treatment of dental anxiety: a randomized controlled clinical trial

J Am Dent Assoc. 2008 Mar;139(3):317-24. doi: 10.14219/jada.archive.2008.0161.


Background: Dental anxiety is a significant cause of poor dental health. Because patients often prefer nonpharmacological interventions, the clinical effectiveness of clearly structured approaches is of particular interest.

Methods: This prospective randomized controlled study compares a brief relaxation method (BR) with music distraction (MD) and with a control group (C). The authors randomly assigned 90 patients with dental anxiety to BR, MD or C groups. They assessed the outcomes by means of the state anxiety subscale of the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory.

Results: Both BR and MD reduced dental anxiety significantly. In contrast, patients in the C group did not exhibit a significant change in their anxiety level. BR was significantly superior to MD. Stratification according to the patient's general level of dental anxiety revealed that BR also was particularly effective in highly anxious subjects, whereas MD did not have a clinically relevant effect on these subjects.

Conclusions: BR appears to be a safe, economically sound and effective nonpharmacological approach to the short-term reduction of dental anxiety. Additional investigations are needed to validate these findings in a larger clinical trial and to determine the long-term effects of this intervention.

Clinical implications: Relaxation techniques are a pragmatic, effective and cost-saving method of facilitating dental treatment in anxious patients.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Dental Anxiety / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Manifest Anxiety Scale
  • Music Therapy*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Relaxation Therapy*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires