Dental phobia: How coloured lighting can help patients to overcome their anxiety
Many people are afraid of visiting the dentist. They associate dental treatment with pain and discomfort. Fear of dentistry is a widespread phenomenon. However, a dental visit can be made more comfortable with the right kind of lighting. Certain types of light can help patients to feel less anxious.
An article by Angelina Schitik, Marketing Trainee at Ivoclar Vivadent
While I was working as a dental assistant in a dental practice in Germany, I frequently dealt with anxious patients. They would tell me about how debilitating their fear of dentistry was for them. It is because of their stories that I became interested in the topic of dental phobia. Furthermore, I wanted to find out if and how this fear could be overcome or at least alleviated. I asked myself the following question: What could dentists do to make these patients feel more comfortable during the treatment and make their dental experience more positive?
Fear of dentistry is widespread
Dental anxiety has many causes. In many cases, negative and even traumatic experiences play a considerable role. Sixty to eighty per cent of all patients associate dental visits and the dental treatment with considerable discomfort. In most patients, this fear is unfounded. Nonetheless, it has to be taken seriously.
Using coloured lighting to help ease patient fears
Various possibilities are available to make anxious patients feel more comfortable. While I was studying interior design, I came across a very interesting concept: Coloured lighting is thought to influence our emotional state. For example, red tends to have a stimulating effect, while blue is calming. Therefore, it is not surprising that coloured lighting is used in the treatment of many different illnesses. Against this background, I therefore asked myself the following questions:
- Does the use of specialized coloured lighting during the dental treatment have a measurable effect on the patient?
- Would it be possible to make patients feel more comfortable during dental treatment by using coloured lighting?
I became so fascinated with this subject that I chose it as the topic for my bachelor thesis. I decided to study the effect of red and blue light on patients during the dental treatment and to evaluate my findings scientifically. My study included both calm and anxious patients.
Body provides information
I used the technique of biofeedback to evaluate my test subjects. This technique is used in the field of behavioural medicine. The process of biofeedback helps to reveal and measure physical reactions. It is used to gain an awareness of certain physiological functions with the objective of manipulating them. Biofeedback allows us to become more aware of unconscious bodily functions and to make them perceptible and even measurable.
Skin conductance: stress and relaxation
Skin conductance is an important factor of biofeedback. It provides information about the activity of the sweat glands in the hand. It is connected with the nervous system. Therefore, skin conductance delivers information about the agitation and stress levels of a person. When blood vessels constrict under stress, blood circulation slows down. As a result, the temperature of the skin drops. Conversely, if a person is relaxed, their skin temperature will be higher.
Result: hypothesis confirmed
I was very curious about the outcome of my study. Would the results be useful and could realistic conclusions be drawn from them? I am proud to say that the study was a success. My findings were clear and concise. Moreover, the hypotheses I had initially set up were confirmed to a great extent:
- Specific coloured lighting influences the stress levels of patients during the dental treatment.
- Red light increased stress levels compared with normal lighting, while blue light reduced them.
- Female patients reacted more strongly to these stimuli than male patients.
- Young patients reacted more strongly than older ones.
- Patients who were anxious about their dental visit did not react as strongly to the stimuli as patients who were not afraid.
I was able to make the following general observations:
- Coloured lighting has a measurable influence on people.
- Colours influence our feelings in many different ways.
- These findings can be used to devise ways of relieving the anxiety of people who are afraid of dentist visits.
The findings of my study could benefit many different fields, not only dentistry:
- Dentists could make dental visits more comfortable for their patients and relieve their anxiety to a certain extent by taking advantage of coloured lighting.
- Interior designers could illuminate dental surgeries in such a way as to create a soothing ambiance for the patients, the dentists and their staff.
- Hospitals and ambulances could use coloured lighting to make the stay and treatment of patients more comfortable.
- Lighting manufacturers could develop special lights for dental practices and other medical or clinical treatment facilities.
Set yourself apart from other dentists
Have you ever thought about having special lighting installed in your dental practice with the objective of making the dental visits of your patients more comfortable? If so, go ahead and make the changes. They will set you apart from your competitors. The news will spread very quickly amongst your patients. We challenge you to take the first steps!