Music and Noise-Cancelling Headphones

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Written by the Dental Fear Central Web Team
Last updated on January 17, 2021

If the sounds associated with the dentist make you anxious, you may want to listen to music or use noise-cancelling headphones to help drown out the sounds (or at least distract from them!).

Most people find that listening to music reduces their anxiety during dental treatment 1. You can bring your own music (on your phone or MP3 player) and headphones along. Many people do, and your dentist will be well used to it!

Photo of wireless earbuds

What type of music is best?

Some people feel that music used for distraction during dental appointments should be relaxing, but not everyone agrees. You may like to be distracted by Heavy Metal for example! Choose whatever you think will work best for you.

Listening to music that has been specifically composed for relaxation can, of course, be helpful – for example during an injection. You can search for free apps in the App Store or on Google Play.

Are there any problems with using headphones as a distraction technique?

Using headphones can potentially be an isolating experience. You are in your own world where your imagination can run wild and you can’t hear any of your dentist’s soothing words. So you may prefer it if the radio is playing in the background. Or your dentist may be able to hook up your phone to a speaker system and play your music. Some dentists also offer you a choice of music on their own MP3 player. That way, everyone in the room can participate in it.

Another option are earbuds – here is a great tip from our message board:

I bring my earbuds and listen to music to distract myself. I’ve found that when I use them, procedures feel shorter and I have less memories of the procedure afterwards. But I still like to be present during the procedure to some extent so I always have one earbud in and one out, so that I can hear the dentist/assistant talking to me.

Which headphones are best for use in dental practices?

Some dental practices offer headphones, sometimes in combination with an overhead TV. Wireless headphones are great because there are no cables to get in the way. Examples include Bose QuietComfort 35 (super-comfy) and Beats by Dr Dre Studio (has volume control built into earpiece so you can quickly adjust the volume).

When using earphones, your dentist may want to thoroughly explain what they are going to do beforehand (including info about stop and coping signals), and lift up an earpiece when they want to tell you something.

From our message boards

I think the idea for using music is to distract your mind by giving you another stimulus to focus on and not so much to actually “drown out” the noises… I find that I am usually calmer when there is music on the radio at the office to distract my mind but it has more to do with attention, not the competition of sounds/volume.

I just had my first injection in over 20 years and I was in shock, I didn’t even feel a poke! My secret was also I put headphones on and had my music blaring in my ear to distract me, believe me, it worked…

I also asked if I could put my headphones in and listened to a podcast I like, boy did that help make the hour go quickly.

Enter our message boards to give and get support, and discuss anything dental phobia related!

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Sources of Information

  1. Gupta, A., Ahmed, B. Experience of listening to music on patient anxiety during minor oral surgery procedures: a pilot study. Br Dent J 228, 89–92 (2020).[]