Managing Wellness

Does ASMR Ease Dental Anxiety?

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Posted by July 5, 2017

Have you heard about ASMR, or autonomous sensory meridian response, to help reduce dental anxiety? If so, you might be wondering how it works, if it’s really effective and whether you and your employees should try it for yourself. That’s why knowing more about this newly discovered phenomenon is beneficial.

What Is Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response?

ASMR is a sensory phenomenon that occurs when people experience static-like, tingling sensations across the back of their neck and scalp (and sometimes their back and limbs) in response to certain triggers. Triggers may include crisp sounds, slow movements, hair brushing or haircuts, facials, medical or dental exams, whispering, laughing, smiling, vacuum sounds and personal attention. Some people reap the benefits of autonomous sensory meridian response on a regular basis, while others have never experienced this phenomenon.

Potential Benefits (Backed by Research)

While the phenomenon of autonomous sensory meridian response isn’t entirely understood, there appears to be some psychological benefits from experiencing it. A study published in 2015 in the journal PeerJ found that participants reported feelings of well-being, improved mood, stress and anxiety relief, and relaxation during autonomous sensory meridian response. Researchers who conducted the study say ASMR may provide temporary relief of chronic pain, stress and depression. Another study published in 2016 in Social Neuroscience says autonomous sensory meridian response is usually social in nature—and often causes a positive, calm feeling.

More research is needed to fully understand autonomous sensory meridian response, how to trigger it and possible psychological health benefits associated with it. However, patient anecdotal reports say calming effects do happen during autonomous sensory meridian response; so trying to create this sensation to ease anxiety does seem to make sense.

How Does It Work in Dentistry?

Numerous dental role-play videos have been made in an attempt to create euphoric feelings caused by autonomous sensory meridian response. While confirming benefits of using it in dentistry requires additional research, dental exams and cleanings can create many of the triggers that cause autonomous sensory meridian response. To attempt to ease anxiety and stress experienced by dental patients during cleanings and exams, dentists and hygienists can mimic the following ASMR-causing triggers:

  • A soft, whispering voice
  • Gentle touch of the face and head
  • Personalized attention
  • Slow movements
  • Crisp sounds (like tapping and scratching) of dental instruments
  • Vacuum sounds from dental instruments
  • Smiling
  • A warm, gentle personality

Potential Benefits to Employers

How can knowing about autonomous sensory meridian response be beneficial for employers (and employees)? There are several potential benefits. Offering the right dental insurance plan helps ensure employees have access to regular dental cleanings and exams by providers that might utilize ASMR triggers. And, mimicking key triggers associated with autonomous sensory meridian response (like giving employees personalized attention, smiling often and using a warm, gentle voice to speak with employees) may help reduce stress and anxiety in the workplace—and boost job satisfaction and retention.

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