Can I wear headphones at the dentist for anxiety? Do they help?

by Alex.   Last Updated On October 22nd, 2022.
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Dental visits are essential if you want to keep your dental health in check. Dental appointments will allow dentists to determine if you have underlying dental conditions that could be life threatening which could prevent you from undergoing expensive dental procedures in the future.

However, dental appointments aren’t that much fun to go to. For some, going to the dentist is one of the most traumatic experiences they can go through, people who suffer from dental anxiety, which is a stress response from a person wherein they feel extreme discomfort from dental offices or even just the thought of sitting in a dental chair is enough to drive them away from getting the appropriate dental treatment they need. So how can an individual with dental anxiety still go to their dental appointment without feeling discomfort?

Experts allow patients with dental anxiety to bring noise cancelling headphones or earbuds for their dental procedures, as listening to calming music helps them calm down. In addition, some patients also get uncomfortable by hearing the sounds produced by the tools used by dentists, which means that bringing noise cancelling headphones and listening to audiobooks allow them to relax during the procedure.

In this article, we will tackle if you can bring headphones to the dentist office for anxiety, how music aids in calming patients out, other strategies you can employ to lessen the stress you feel when going to the dentist office, and many more.

Let’s get right into it.

Table of Contents

Dental Anxiety: Ways to stop fearing the dentist

You’re not alone if you feel nervous about going into a dental practice. Many patients also suffer from dental anxiety; 36% of the entire population suffers from this condition. Because of how common this condition is, your local dental team might even provide initiatives to help calm patients down, such as providing them with wireless headphones or sedation options for extreme patients.

Here are some ways to reduce dental anxiety for any dental work you might undergo in the future.

Speak Up

Before going to the dentist’s office, tell the dentist beforehand that you are suffering from dental anxiety. Dentists know that undergoing any medical procedure is a daunting task, especially for people who suffer anxiety from it. Telling your dentist that you suffer from dental anxiety will allow them to develop solutions or initiatives that they can provide to help you calm down during the procedure.

Also, ask as many questions as you want to the dentist, as knowing all the details about the procedure seems to work for most people, enabling them to feel a more stress free environment.

Dentist and patient in dentist office

Bring a Friend Along

Bringing a friend or family member during your dental procedure might help manage the symptoms of dental anxiety. Communicate with your dentist and ask if they will allow your friend or family member inside the operating room. Though you might be unable to talk with your friend or family member during the medical procedures you might undergo, their mere presence seems to have a relaxing effect on most patients.

Bring a Blanket or Stress Ball

Bringing a blanket or stress ball to your dental appointment is one of the most common things done by patients who suffer from dental anxiety. A blanket recreates an environment wherein they feel comfortable, and patients who bring stress balls during their appointment allow them to distract themselves from the sounds made by the tools the dentist is using for the procedure.

Utilize Mindfulness Techniques

The human mind is one of the most powerful things in the world. The mind is a complex organ that dictates what we are and are not afraid of. Relaxation all starts in the mind, and one of the mindfulness techniques utilized by experts is counting your breaths before and during the procedure. Another technique also used is to focus on relaxing your muscles. Lastly, experts recommend counting from 1 to 10 whenever you feel anxious. Concentrating on counting from one to ten will distract you from feeling nervous about your treatment procedure.

Practice Deep Breathing Techniques

Multiple studies have shown that deep breathing techniques aid in decreasing cortisol production, which is responsible for people feeling anxious and stressed—practicing deep breathing techniques days before the appointment will allow you to feel calmer when you are in the dental chair.

Ask for Sedation Options

Some dentists also offer sedation options for patients who suffer from extreme anxiety using nitrous oxide or laughing gas. If you prefer this way, you can talk with your dentist before the procedure, wherein they can also provide you with other options.

Listening to Music

Listening to music is the most common practice used by most people who suffer from dental anxiety. You can bring headphones when going to the dentist, and studies have shown that listening to your favorite music while going through the procedure aids in calming the patients down. In addition, since most headphones are equipped with noise canceling technology, they also filter out noises and sounds produced by the tools used by the dentist, making them calmer during the treatment.

Effects of Listening to music

Cleaning, studying (see also the best noise cancelling headphones for studying), or going for a walk is something most of us do while listening to music. But did you know that listening to music helps in calming people down?

Besides distracting patients from the procedure, music can also lower blood pressure and even slow down the patient’s heart rate, preventing hyperventilation. Classical music is the most common type of music listened to by people to calm them down, while some prefer heavy metal music. No specific music genre can effectively calm a patient down; just choose your favorite music you love listening to, and this will guarantee to calm you down whenever you are at the dentist.

While some prefer listening to music, some also like listening to an audio book while undergoing a medical procedure. To some, listening to an audio book takes them back to a time when their mother/father is telling them a story. While for some, audio books distract from the procedure as once patients are entirely tuned in to the story, they don’t want to miss a single detail, enabling them sometimes to forget that they are going through a procedure.

Young Woman Listening to Music Using Headphones

Are there issues with wearing headphones during a dental appointment?

Yes, there can be issues with wearing headphones during dental appointments. For instance, the dentist might instruct you to do something specific during the duration, but since you are wearing headphones, you might be unable to hear what they say.

In addition, communication between you and your dentist is made to a minimum, which might limit you from expressing what you genuinely feel during the procedure. Because of this, some dental clinics have in-ceiling speakers, or some dentists set up a small speaker system in their office that you can connect to; this way, you can still hear what your dentist is saying while listening to your favorite tracks.

What type of headphones is best for dental procedures?

You can use any headphones when going to the dentist. However, it is ideal to use wireless headphones because they won’t restrict your movement. Additionally, wired headphones will get in the way of the dentist performing the said procedure, which could lead to disastrous consequences.

Top wireless headphones like the Bose QuietComfort 35 or the Beats headphones by Dre are preferred by most because they have built-in volume adjustment buttons on the side, which makes it easier for patients to adjust the volume of their song if they want to.

Which is better to listen to? Audio books or songs?

Neither option is better or worse because some prefer listening to songs while others like to listen to audio books. So if you are going to the dentist and you feel anxious about your procedure, choose to listen to whatever makes you calmer and one that will distract you from the procedure.

Frequently Asked Questions

How common is dental anxiety?

Dental anxiety is quite common, especially when it comes to developed countries. Data shows that this condition affects 36% of the total population, with 12% suffering from extreme dental anxiety.

What causes dental anxiety?

Dental anxiety can stem from a lot of different reasons. One can root from the pain and trauma a patient had experienced in the past when they were still a child and had to visit the dentist. Another reason could be from hearing the stories other patients when they also had to go to the dentist.


Dental visits can be genuinely a terrifying experience for some. Dental anxiety is a common condition that affects less than half of the total population, and its great that dentists acknowledge this problem and allows patients to bring in any comfortable material that will enable them to be calmer during the procedure, such as blankets, stress balls, or headphones to tune in to music or audio books.

We hope this informative article has helped you become more knowledgeable if you can wear headphones for your dental visits.