Can distraction techniques relax kids at the dentist?

dental anxiety

Randomised controlled trials have tested whether dental anxiety in children and adolescents can be reduced using toys, audio and audiovisual techniques and a range of other measures. 

In a study published in the International Journal of Paediatric Dentistry, Brazilian researchers sought to determine via systematic review of these whether dental anxiety, estimated to affect anywhere between five and 61 per cent of children worldwide, can be ameliorated to distract young patients from the task at hand. 

Children and adolescents under 18 were provided with a number of dental treatments including dental examination, oral prophylaxis, local anaesthesia, dental restoration, endodontic treatment and extractio, all while being distracted with toys, audiovisual techniques, instrument camouflage, biofeedback, and a dental operating microscope. 


Qualitative analysis showed with very low certainty of evidence that distraction techniques effectively reduced anxiety and fear depending on the distraction type, instrument used to measure anxiety and fear, and procedure. 

The authors therefore concluded: “The heterogeneity of methodologies and findings in the studies, however, suggests more robust, and well‐executed RCTs are needed.”

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