Saturday, January 3, 2009

Sound Stimulation and Its Effect on Dental Sensation Threshold
Sidney Carlin, W. Dixon Ward, Arthur Geshon and Rex Ingraham
Science, New Series, Vol. 138, No. 3546 pp. 1258-1259

By: Michelle Minke


Auditory Analgesia may be successful in dental operations because of distraction, suggestion, cross-sensory masking, or the use of all three at the same time. The threshold of sensation was analyzed in each of these three areas by measuring sensitivity to electrical stimulation of the teeth by having white noise present or no noise present.

It was found that cross-sensory masking, or covering up the white noise, did not affect the threshold level. There were no differences in the “tingle” threshold when presented with or without noise.

Distraction and suggestion did affect the threshold considerably. Reactions were both negative and positive when given the chance to prepare, but the threshold level was higher in all patients. The use of both distraction and suggestion is the most effective for creating a high threshold in a clinical situation.


I was drawn to this article right away because of my recent visit to the dentist. I had cavities to be filled, and I completely despise the sound of dentistry tools that exude white noise. I brought along my Ipod for distraction. Music in this case, acts as cross-sensory masking and as a distraction.

As soon as the drilling instrument would become louder than my music, I felt much more uncomfortable and reacted with tension in my body language. My dentist asked me if I was ok, and I was, but I definitely felt more stressed when the instrument was at its loudest. I have to agree that my “tingling threshold” did not change although there was a negative response in my reaction.

Is music from my Ipod just a distraction in this situation, or also as a tool to mask the sounds around me that create uneasiness and discomfort?

Music is the combination of cross-sensory masking and distraction in our daily lives as well. For example, how many people listen to music on the subway? Music masks unpleasant sounds and confrontation of our environment by distracting us. Perhaps music has the ability to increase other thresholds such as tolerance or pain.

No comments: