International Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 22, Issue 4, pp 498–505 | Cite as

Effects of Music Listening on Pre-treatment Anxiety and Stress Levels in a Dental Hygiene Recall Population

  • Myriam V. Thoma
  • Martina Zemp
  • Lea Kreienbühl
  • Deborah Hofer
  • Patrick R. Schmidlin
  • Thomas Attin
  • Ulrike Ehlert
  • Urs M. Nater



Waiting for a medical procedure can exert significant feelings of state anxiety in patients. Music listening has been shown to be effective in decreasing anxiety levels. No study so far examined the potential anxiety and stress-reducing effect of a music intervention on pre-treatment anxiety and stress in patients waiting for dental hygiene treatment. Knowing whether the anxiety-reducing effect of music would also be detectible in the context of preventive routine medical procedures in healthy individuals would widen the area of application of music from the hospital or clinical environment to medical offices in general.


Waiting for a medical treatment can induce anxiety and may lead to the experience of stress. We set out to examine the effect of music on pre-treatment anxiety in a healthy patient sample waiting for a dental treatment.


In a randomized controlled clinical trial, 92 consecutive volunteer patients (mean age, 57 years) waiting for their scheduled dental hygiene treatment were randomly allocated to either an experimental (n = 46, listening to music for 10 min) or a control group (n = 46, waiting in silence). State and habitual anxiety, subjective stress, and mood measures were assessed before and after music listening or silence, respectively.


State anxiety levels in the music group decreased significantly after intervention as compared to the control group (F(1/90) = 8.06; p = 0.006). Participants’ trait anxiety and dental anxiety were not found to moderate this effect.


Listening to music prior to dental hygiene treatment decreases anxiety levels to a greater extent than waiting in silence.


Pre-treatment anxiety Music listening Dental hygiene treatment 



This study was supported by a grant from the Young Investigator Grant of the University of Zurich, grant no. 56233208 (MVT). We thank the survey respondents and acknowledge the assistance of Adriana Giaquinto and Regula Bättig in organizing the patient interviews. UMN acknowledges funding by the Volkswagen Foundation.

Conflict of Interest

Myriam V. Thoma, Martina Zemp, Lea Kreienbühl, Deborah Hofer, Patrick R. Schmidlin, Thomas Attin, Ulrike Ehlert, and Urs M. Nater declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Informed Consent

All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000. Informed consent was obtained from all patients for being included in the study.


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Copyright information

© International Society of Behavioral Medicine 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Myriam V. Thoma
    • 1
    • 2
  • Martina Zemp
    • 1
  • Lea Kreienbühl
    • 1
  • Deborah Hofer
    • 3
  • Patrick R. Schmidlin
    • 3
  • Thomas Attin
    • 3
  • Ulrike Ehlert
    • 3
  • Urs M. Nater
    • 4
  1. 1.Clinical Psychology and PsychotherapyUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  2. 2.Health PsychologyBrandeis UniversityWalthamUSA
  3. 3.Clinic of Preventive Dentistry, Periodontology and CariologyUniversity of Zurich, Center of Dental MedicineZurichSwitzerland
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MarburgMarburgGermany

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