Cartoons Could Curb Dental Anxiety in Kids

Millions of people struggle with dental anxiety, and many of them happen to be kids. According to a recent article from Science Daily, 1 in 5 school age children are afraid of the dentist. Whether it’s caused by the fear of the unknown or passed down from a parent, anxiety can cause unnecessary distress on a child, often leading to disruptive behavior. In an effort to help calm the nerves of such children, many dentists have attempted to distract them with audiovisuals, like TV or video games. And while several studies have provided conflicting evidence, one recent report claims that watching cartoons can help children overcome their anxiety.

The study was published in Acta Odontologia Scandinavica, a peer-reviewedmedical journal that covers dental research, and involved the participation of 56 “uncooperative” kids, ages 7 to 9 years. They attended a dental clinic at the Royal College of Dentistry, King Saud University in Saudi Arabia. The kids were randomly placed in groups to receive either audiovisual distraction, in the form of watching their favorite cartoons using the eyeglass system Merlin i-theatre™, or no distraction. Participants received three treatments, each at a separate appointment, which included an oral exam, injection with local anaesthetic, and tooth restoration. Researchers measured anxiety levels and behavior during each visit, using a predetermined scale, while monitoring vital signs, blood pressure and pulse. The kids also rated their own anxiety and pain.

Participants in the distraction showed significantly less anxiety and were more cooperative than the control group, especially during the injection. The average pulse rate (a secondary symptom of anxiety) of kids in the control group was much higher during the injection when compared to the distracted group. That being said, the children did not report differences in treatment-related pain and anxiety. In conclusion, the authors stated that the audiovisual distraction seems to a useful technique to calm children during dental treatments. Of course, with such a small sampling, further studies will need to be completed to confirm the findings.

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