Dental anxiety is said to develop mostly in childhood and adolescence and can lead to the avoidance of necessary dental care and poor oral health (Sharma and Tyagi, 2011).
A recently published crossover randomized clinical trial evaluated the effects of aromatherapy with lavender essential oil on stress and pain perception in 24 children, aged 7 to 9 years, receiving dental treatment at a clinic in Iran (Ghaderi and Solhjou, 2020).
All of the children attended two dental appointments, one week apart, and were treated with lavender aromatherapy at one appointment (intervention session) and without it in the other appointment (control session). For the intervention session, two drops of Lavandula angustifolia essential oil were added to 100ml of water in a humidifier and diffused in the air for 30 minutes before the patient’s arrival. To measure the children’s anxiety levels, pulse rates, salivary cortisol levels and a face rating scale were used at different stages of the appointments.
According to the authors, the findings ‘showed that aromatherapy with lavender essential oil can significantly result in reduced pulse rate and salivary cortisol level in children during dental treatment. The results also found the effectiveness of lavender aromatherapy on the reduction of pain perception during dental injection; therefore, it could be considered as a method for stress and pain control in dental settings in children’ [sic].
They did however comment that part of the anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effect of the lavender essential oil may have been due to it masking dentistry-related odours, such as eugenol, which patients can find distressing. As such, the authors highlight in their conclusion that further research using a non-therapeutic odour as the placebo is needed, in order to assess the therapeutic effect of lavender.
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Ghaderi F and Solhjou N. (2020) The effects of lavender aromatherapy on stress and pain perceptions in children during dental treatment: a randomised controlled trial. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 40 (101182). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctcp.2020.101182