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News / September 12, 2008

Lavender scent calms dental patients

by Guy Hiscott

Lavender scent could be an effective means of reducing anxiety in dental patients, a new study has found.

Metaxia Kritsidima and her colleagues from King’s College London who will present their results at The British Psychological Society’s Division of Health Psychology and European Health Psychology Society Conference at the University of Bath on 12 September 2008.

Metaxia Kritsidima said: ‘A substantial number of people avoid going to dental surgeries because they are “scared of the dentist”, which can have a significant impact on their dental health. The anxiety experienced by these patients once they get to the dentist is stressful not only for them, but also for the dental team. Working under a state of increased tension may potentially compromise their performance, as well as lengthening appointment times. This is why finding a way of reducing dental anxiety is really important.’

In this study, researchers investigated the effects of lavender scent on dental anxiety. The dental anxiety levels of 340 adult patients were measured while they waited for a scheduled dental appointment. Some patients were exposed to a lavender scent while the rest were not.

Patients who were exposed to the scent reported feeling less anxious than the control group. This significant effect was present regardless of the type of dental appointment (such as routine check up, drilling, etc). However, the exposure to lavender had no effect on the patients’ anxiety regarding future dental procedures.

‘Our findings suggest that lavender could certainly be used as an effective ‘on-the-spot’ anxiety reduction in dentists’ waiting rooms,’ Metaxia Kritsidima concludes.

More than 700 psychologists from around the world are gathering at the University of Bath from 9-12 September 2008 for the joint European Health Psychology Society and British Psychological Society’s Division of Health Psychology Conference 2008, themed ‘Behaviour, Health and Healthcare: From Physiology to Policy’.