Music interventions for dental anxiety

Oral Dis. 2018 Apr;24(3):300-306. doi: 10.1111/odi.12615. Epub 2017 Jan 5.


Anxiety is a significant issue in the dental care of adults and children. Dental anxiety often leads to avoidance of dental care which may result in significant deterioration of oral and dental health. Non-pharmacological anxiety management interventions such as music listening are increasingly used in dental care. Although efficacy for music's anxiolytic effects has been established for pre-operative anxiety, findings regarding the use of music listening for dental anxiety are inconclusive, especially for children. The use of music for passive distraction may not be adequate for children and highly anxious adults. Instead, interventions offered by a trained music therapist may be needed to optimize music's anxiolytic impact. Music therapy interventions are individualized to the patient's presenting needs and geared at enhancing patients' active engagement in the management of their anxiety. Interventions may include (i) active refocusing of attention, (ii) music-guided deep breathing, (iii) music-assisted relaxation, and (iv) music-guided imagery. In addition, music therapists can teach patients music-based anxiety management skills prior to dental treatments, offer them the opportunity to express emotions related to the upcoming procedure, and help them gain a sense of control and safety. Clinical guidelines for the use of music listening by dental practitioners are offered.

Keywords: dental anxiety; music; music therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dental Anxiety / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Music / psychology*
  • Music Therapy / methods*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic