Watching cartoons may help young patients overcome dental anxiety

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Watching cartoons may help young patients overcome dental anxiety


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Researchers from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and King Saud University in Saudi Arabia have investigated whether audiovisual distraction during dental treatment may help children to overcome their fear of the dentist. (Photograph: Al-Khotani et al.)
Dental Tribune International

Dental Tribune International

二. 16 八月 2016


HUDDINGE, Sweden & RIYADH, Saudi Arabia: Sometimes a little distraction is all it takes to lessen children’s fear of the dentist and consequently improve treatment outcomes. In a clinical trial jointly conducted by researchers in Sweden and Saudi Arabia, children who watched cartoons through video glasses during treatment exhibited significantly less anxiety and showed more cooperation than did children who had no audiovisual distraction.

Dental anxiety is very common in children. It is estimated that about one in five school-aged children are afraid to visit the dentist to some degree. Studies have shown that children with dental phobia experience more dental pain and are more disruptive during treatment. Investigating means to address these anxiety issues in a child-oriented manner, the present study evaluated the effectiveness of viewing videotaped cartoons with an eyeglass system, Merlin i-theatre (Merlin Digital General Trading), in a group of children receiving dental restorative treatment.

The study examined 56 children of 7–9 years of age in three separate treatment visits that involved an oral examination, injection with a local anaesthetic and tooth restoration. The treatment was undertaken at a dental clinic at King Saud University in Saudi Arabia. All of the children involved had exhibited some kind of dental anxiety in the past and were referred to the clinic for behaviour management. In the trial, one half was randomly chosen to watch their favourite cartoons through the eyeglasses, while the control group had no audiovisual distraction during treatment.

When measuring anxiety levels and cooperative behaviour in both groups, the researchers found that the children in the distraction group exhibited significantly less anxiety and showed more cooperation—particularly during the local anaesthetic injection—than the control group did.

In determining indirect measures of anxiety, such as vital signs, including blood pressure and pulse, they further found that the average pulse rate of children without video distraction was significantly higher during the injection than in children in the distraction group. However, the children themselves, who rated their perceived treatment-related pain and anxiety during each procedure, did not echo this difference.

Although further studies are necessary in order to confirm the value of the method in general clinical settings, the results of the trial suggest that audiovisual distraction may be a useful technique to calm children with dental phobia and ensure that they can be given the dental treatment they need, the researchers concluded.

The study, titled “Effects of audiovisual distraction on children’s behaviour during dental treatment: A randomized controlled clinical trial”, was published online on 13 July in the Acta Odontologica Scandinavica journal.

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