030 – Effectiveness of pre-treatment music interventions in managing anxiety in the dental setting

  • Chief Investigator A: Dr Roisin McGrath
  • Chief Investigator B: Dr Chris Wenn
  • Associate Investigators: Dr Bob Cvetkovic and Dr Jodie Heap


Dental anxiety is common in the general population and has been identified as a barrier to people accessing timely and appropriate professional dental care. As a result, individuals suffering from dental anxiety frequently present with poorer oral health outcomes, are at increased risk of complications arising from untreated dental disease and at increased risk of chronic disease — all of which contribute to social detachment, reduced self-esteem and a decrease in general well-being.


To explore the effectiveness of pre-treatment music interventions in the management of dental anxiety in general dental practice.


Listening to music during a dental procedure has been associated with a reduction in the experience of dental anxiety, accompanied by physiological changes such as reductions in heart rate, blood pressure and respiratory rates, but there is a lack of research investigating the effect of music provided pre-treatment or during treatment.

This project will investigate the effect of music timing (i.e. music from the time of being in the waiting room, compared to music from the commencement of dental treatment) and music choice (i.e. four different genres of sedative music will be offered) on anxiety associated with having restorative dental treatment i.e. dental fillings.


This study is a randomised controlled trial. The research project includes a dependent variable (dental anxiety) and an independent variable (music). Patient anxiety will be measured both subjectively and objectively.

Patients requiring dental fillings will be recruited by eight metropolitan Melbourne practices and randomly assigned to study groups to listen to sedative music via on-ear headphones during various stages of their dental appointment. They will be able to select from four different playlists, with different genres of sedative music. Patients randomly assigned to the control group (no music) will still wear on-ear headphones for the duration of their appointment. The patients’ level of dental anxiety will be measured on arrival, during and on leaving the dental setting using the Modified Dental Anxiety Scale and the State Trait Anxiety Inventory.

What are the expected outcomes?

It is anticipated this project will help:

  • determine whether music timing and music choice has an effect on anxiety associated with having restorative dental treatment
  • determine whether music therapy is effective and could be used as an additional intervention to manage anxiety in the dental setting.