The verdict: Music at the dentist (Mozart or metal?)

I’m sure you’ve all been on tenterhooks waiting for an update on this one. I am safely at home in bed, typing ability in tact, and in much less pain than I anticipated.

I should add, I didn’t listen to metal. I am a sucker for alliteration.

So what did you listen to?

The night before, when I was in my bed (again), looking nervous, I made a pretty long playlist. Revealing the full playlist, while in the spirit of transparency and knowledge exchange, may be embarrassing, so I’m only going to share the songs I actually listened to.

I started listening once they started the real thing, i.e. not for the local anaesthetic. I couldn’t see the MP3 player under the gown so was restricted to skipping songs until I got to one I could hear.

So I started with King George, Dover, then skipped for a while to Sk8r Boi, Avril Lavigne, and finished with You Drive me Crazy (album version), Britney Spears. Really, those were the only songs that were loud enough and had a catchy enough tune for me to recognise them instantly. The exception was Rollercoaster, Blink 182, which I did recognise but just didn’t find as engaging.

Did you feel less anxious?

I really, really did. It was a slightly different procedure (extraction rather than coronectomy), so there was less drilling. I had been terribly nervous (more so than before the last time). But last time I couldn’t control my surroundings at all, and this time I could, a little. I think that this is a huge part of how music can be useful.

I also found the music much more engaging – I knew it, I liked it, I could have sung along if not for the obvious problems there.

You’re saying that you didn’t feel relaxed by music that you’ve defined as relaxing. Doesn’t that totally invalidate your research?

Actually, I really don’t think it does, and it has helped me to think more clearly about what’s different about my PhD.

The point is, with situational anxiety, your main concern is dealing with the situation at hand, and music can really help that. If you need something to distract you from your pain or your nerves, music that you like and know well (and have good associations with) is fantastic.

When treating an anxiety disorder (which is what I’m researching), the main concern is not dealing with the situation at hand, it is dealing with the seemingly-uncontrollable level of anxiety. Relaxation (music or otherwise) is not implemented to make you forget you’re in the scary situation. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Relaxation is there to tell your body that it is okay to stay in the scary place.

If you have any music that helps you cope with anxiety, I’d love to know what you listen to, and why you find it helpful. Please comment below.

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