Breathing out dental fear: how slow breathing helps children manage their anxiety at the dentist
March 9th, 2022,
2 min read
Up to 20% of children have dental fear and anxiety, and some may even be so afraid that their fear qualifies as a phobia. When children are scared of the dentist, it can create some high-stress situations that are not pleasant for everyone involved. Dental fear among children is often accompanied by disruptive and uncooperative behaviours that can render treatment difficult. The question is: what can be done to make it easier? Diaphragmatic (belly) breathing has been shown to reduce fear and anxiety, but few investigations have evaluated whether it can reduce dental anxiety in children.
Until a recent study tested the effectiveness and feasibility of diaphragmatic breathing (explained to the children as ‘belly breathing’) in twenty children undergoing dental care. Compared to treatment as usual, the technique had significant benefits on mood, self-reported pain (measured with questionnaires), and autonomic balance (measured with a respiration belt and ECG electrodes), reducing sympathetic activation.
Being low-cost, and easy to implement, breathing exercises are a promising tool for reducing negative affect and physiological distress in children with dental anxiety, potentially leading to more cooperative behaviours and reduced visit time.
And this goes not only for children. We recently received a story from one of our users: How moonbird helps to relax with fear of the dentist.
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