Thanks to improvements in internet access and mobile device technology, most people listen to music frequently throughout their day – on their way to and from work, while performing chores and running errands, and during many other everyday situations.
Music reduces stress and increases physical energy, depending on the tempo, melody, and genre of music we listen to. Personal preference has some impact on the effectiveness of music to soothe or energize us, but researchers are increasingly finding that humans share many musical preferences, especially when it comes to regulating stress.
One of the most stressful but routine things we do is go to the dentist. Fortunately, music can help us in this stressful situation. Medical research has found that, from the emergency room to the physical therapy practice, music can ease stress, improve immune and hormone production, elevate mood, and reduce pain. Those running dental practices can use this information to improve outcomes for their patients, starting in the waiting room and moving all the way into their time recovering at home.
Music is not just important for patients, though. Employees at dental practices are in a high-stress work environment, managing scared patients, ensuring information is accurate, and dealing with loud noises from dental tools or ringing phones. Using music to ease tension works at all levels, from the patient to the dentist.
Who Is Affected by Music Played in Dentists’ Offices?
- For patients: Almost no one looks forward to going to the dentist. Music has long been associated with brightening or regulating emotions and stress, so the music played in the waiting room, in specific treatment rooms, and even through headphones during procedures can soothe anxious clients, reduce stress from longer procedures, and even improve the healing process by reducing overall pain.A case study of 200 adult patients, divided into two even groups, examined how classical music could affect dental treatment outcomes. One group of 100 listened to classical music while the other was the control group that did not listen to music or specific sounds. A questionnaire given to the participants before and after treatment found that classical music was considered the most relaxing style. Patients who listened to classical music were more treatable, less tense, and adjusted better to different approaches to treatment. A leading complaint among people seeking dental treatment is the fear of discomfort during procedures, even routine ones like cleanings. A study of 34 patients who reported dental anxiety found that music therapy during treatment decreased cortisol, a stress hormone, so the participants experienced less reported anxiety during the course of their treatment. A study of pediatric dentistry – dentistry for children – found that using music during sedation improved recovery rate after the procedure. While many studies on dental procedures and music have been conducted on adults, this survey on children’s rates of recovery indicates that music works for young as well as older people.
- For dentists and assistants: Dentists, dental hygienists, and their assistants may suffer significant hearing loss over time due to loud instruments and tools. They may also suffer hearing loss at a dental practice due to music played at too loud a volume.It is important, for the sake of patients and employees, to keep noise level to 60 decibels, as much as possible, and this includes music in the waiting room. Playing music more softly, at around 40 decibels, could be better for everyone’s stress level. Reportedly, the pain threshold of sound is 140 decibels, so moving further from that while maintaining audibility can reduce stress for patients and hearing loss for employees of a dental practice.
- For receptionists: Due to medical laws, it is important to keep information on a person’s health, including their dental health, private. For the most part, these laws involve keeping printed and electronic records secure, and not releasing information unless the patient has specifically filled a request or granted legal permission.
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A concern that isn’t often considered is how information may be unsecured in conversation. When doctors, dentists, nurses, and administrative staff have conversations, people waiting in the waiting room or in the offices nearby may hear something that they legally should not. A way to protect patient privacy is to obscure these conversations with noise, including music.
Certain sounds common to offices, including clinical offices like dental practices, can be grating. Using music to ease the stress levels of administrators and receptionists can create a calmer, more peaceful, and more helpful work environment, which benefits both patients and employees.
Common noises like telephones ringing, along with fast-paced activities like filing and balancing customer requests, can create intense stress similar to listening to dissonant music and aggressive sounds. Playing calming sounds like classical or instrumental music can reduce the impact of these common stressors by modulating breathing rate and heartbeat.
The Best Music for Dental Practices
The most effective musical choices, for both patients and employees in dental practices, include:
- Slow, regular classical or instrumental music.
- Music with lower decibel levels.
- Songs that draw the attention of the patient or sooth an employee performing a repetitive task.
Consider the areas of the practice where higher energy may be needed. For example, up-tempo happy music may be good for the waiting room or in the back offices for employees, but it may not be great for patients waiting for treatment. Soothing instrumental music may be good for easing dental patients’ stress, but it may not be good for employees who need to stay awake. Working with a commercial streaming music provider means you can get professional guidance on choosing music which works in your dentist office, taking into consideration the needs of your patients and employees.
- Music as Medicine: Docs Use Tunes as Treatment. (June 1, 2009). NBC News.
- Does Music During Dental Treatment Make a Difference? Department of Propedeutic of Conservative Dentistry, Medical Faculty, Jagiellonian University.
- Changes Induced by Music Therapy to Physiologic Parameters in Patients With Dental Anxiety. (November 2015). Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. ScienceDirect.
- Effects of Music on Sedation Depth and Sedative Use During Pediatric Dental Procedures. (November 2016). Journal of Clinical Anesthesia. ScienceDirect.
- Decibel Ratings of Dental Office Sounds. (February 1981). The Journal of Prosthetic Dentistry.
- The Psychosomatic Effect of the Sonic Environment in the Dental Office. (March 1, 1989). Europe PMC.