Music at the dentist: Mozart or metal?

Last time I went to the dentist, it was for wisdom tooth surgery. I was not expecting this to be fun. In fact, I was expecting a heavy amount of anxiety.

Now, for my PhD, I am researching how listening to music can help people cope with anxiety. Although my focus is on people with anxiety disorders, my literature review is much wider, and I’ve read a number of papers on listening to music as a tool for reducing stress at the dentist.

“Ah”, I thought, “the dentist”. “I’ll take some music”. I felt I was being very clever. I chose music that (according to extensive research on the subject) should have been particularly good at helping me relax – A Mozart piano concerto (No. 20 in D minor, Mvt 2, performed by Alfred Brendel, if you’re interested).

I went into my surgery armed with my MP3 player and my fiancee (for any moral support that Mozart couldn’t provide). What I should have mentioned was that I was having a coronectomy rather than an extraction. Without going into too much detail, this means that rather than having the tooth pulled, the top of is sawed off and the gum sewn back in place.

The dental surgeon started her work, and I pressed “play” to activate my Mozart and the relaxation that was bound to follow.  Initially, this was lovely. I breathed more deeply, and did feel more relaxed. Until the saw got going. Mozart was no match for that saw. My fiancee later told me that she and the nurse had been exchanging glances (the nature of which I am unsure of) as I frantically spun the volume dial in an attempt to drown out the horror of hearing my own tooth being sawed apart.

Would something louder have been more effective, despite being contrary to my painstaking research? How will we ever know?

Lucky for everyone (apart from me), I am having another wisdom tooth removed in 2 days. Much as I am dreading this, it will give me the chance to test my theory.  Will louder, busier music make me feel more relaxed than quiet, gentle Mozart?

Assuming the surgery doesn’t have any surprise complications which would remove my typing ability, I’ll keep you updated. If anyone else listens to music at the dentist, or has any recommendations, please do let me know in the comments section.

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