Calming Dental Anxiety: Effects of Essential Oils in the Dentist's Office

Greg Howard
20th June, 2024

Calming Dental Anxiety: Effects of Essential Oils in the Dentist's Office

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • The study by Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin found that essential-oil vaporization can reduce acute anxiety in dental patients
  • Patients exposed to essential-oil scents had lower anxiety levels compared to those in the control group
  • The anxiety-reducing effect was more significant in female patients and those with high trait anxiety
Dental fear and anxiety (DFA) is a significant challenge in oral healthcare, leading to compromised oral health, pain, and discomfort during treatment. This study, conducted by Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, aimed to analyze the effect of essential-oil vaporization on acute anxiety in dental patients[1]. The study explored how different scents might alleviate anxiety during dental visits, potentially offering a simple and effective solution to a widespread problem. The researchers selected four dental practices and used five weekly cycles of vaporization with each scent: Orange (Citrus sinensis), Swiss Pine (Pinus cembra), Good Mood (a blend of essential oils), Forest Walk (another blend of essential oils), and water as a control. The primary outcome measured was acute anxiety using the state-trait-anxiety inventory (STAI-S). Secondary outcomes included trait anxiety (STAI-T), dental anxiety (Kleinknecht dental fear survey), and pain perception during treatment (numeric rating scale). The study included 486 patients. Results showed that acute anxiety levels were slightly higher in the control group (40.7 ± 11.6) compared to the intervention groups (38.4 ± 10.5). Interestingly, post-hoc analyses revealed that the effect was more pronounced in female patients (n = 296, p = 0.044). Additionally, a subpopulation with high trait anxiety (STAI-T ≥ 42) showed a significant reduction in acute anxiety when exposed to essential-oil vaporization (control group: 51.1 ± 11.9, intervention groups: 46.8 ± 9.6, p = 0.0379). These findings align with previous research indicating that dental anxiety is a prevalent issue, particularly among women and younger adults[2]. The global estimated prevalence of DFA in adults is 15.3%, with higher rates among women[2]. This study suggests that essential-oil vaporization could be a practical approach to mitigate this anxiety, especially in those with high trait anxiety. The study's methodology included the use of well-established measures of anxiety and pain, such as the STAI and the Kleinknecht dental fear survey, which are known for their reliability and validity[3]. These tools helped ensure that the findings were robust and clinically relevant. Dental anxiety often leads to avoidance of dental care, resulting in poor oral health and multiple failed appointments[4]. This study's findings are significant because they offer a non-invasive, cost-effective method to reduce anxiety, potentially improving patient attendance and oral health outcomes. The use of essential oils could be integrated into existing psychotherapeutic behavioral strategies, which include muscle relaxation, guided imagery, and desensitization, to enhance their effectiveness[4]. Moreover, dental anxiety has been shown to impact both state anxiety (SA) and pain perception during dental procedures[5]. This study supports the idea that reducing DFA can also alleviate pain, as lower anxiety levels are associated with reduced pain perception. The essential-oil vaporization could thus play a dual role in managing both anxiety and pain during dental treatments. In conclusion, the study by Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin highlights the potential of essential-oil vaporization as a simple yet effective method to reduce dental anxiety, particularly in women and individuals with high trait anxiety. This approach could be a valuable addition to the strategies currently used to manage DFA, ultimately improving patient experiences and oral health outcomes. Further research using multi-perspective methodological approaches is recommended to explore the full potential of this intervention.

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Main Study

1) Scenting serenity: influence of essential-oil vaporization on dental anxiety - a cluster-randomized, controlled, single-blinded study (AROMA_dent).

Published 19th June, 2024

Related Studies

2) Estimated prevalence of dental fear in adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis.

3) Anxiety and pain measures in dentistry: a guide to their quality and application.

Journal: Journal of the American Dental Association (1939), Issue: Vol 131, Issue 10, Oct 2000

4) Management strategies for adult patients with dental anxiety in the dental clinic: a systematic review.

5) Association between Anxiety and Pain in Dental Treatment: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.

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