Pressure on the body from a weighted blanket can relieve anxiety at the dentist’s office. For years, many people have enjoyed the weight from the heavy vest worn while getting x-rays at the dentist’s office as commonly known from a multitude of subjective accounts. Now they can get that relaxing feeling by wearing a weighted blanket.
A media release about a new study to be published in the Journal of Pediatrics says that a relaxing environment, including weight on the body, significantly relieves stress at the dentist’s office. Dr. Michele Shapiro of the Issie Shapiro Educational Center and colleagues from Hebrew University in Israel studied the effects of the sensory environment on a child’s anxiety levels during two separate routine cleaning visits to the dentist.
The release reads, “For many children, a trip to the doctor or dentist is a stressful experience. The sensory environment (i.e., the sounds, smells, and lights associated with the clinical setting) can cause a child’s anxiety levels to rise. This is especially true in children with developmental disabilities who may have difficulty understanding the unfamiliar clinical environment.”
This reaction is similar to Sensory Processing Disorder. SPD is a neurological disorder involving smell, hearing, pain, body position, taste, visual, temperature, and the body’s position and movement. The brain receives all this stimuli but can’t make sense of it so it can react normally.
The release continues, “The first trip included the typical sensory experiences of a dental office, including fluorescent lighting and the use of an overhead dental lamp. During the second trip, however, the researchers created a sensory adapted environment that modified the experience of the children. No overhead lighting was used, a slow moving repetitive color lamp was added, and the dental hygienist wore a special LED headlamp that directed the light into the child’s mouth. The children listened to soothing music and were wrapped in a heavy vest that created a “hugging” effect.”
The “hugging” effect is a type of sensory calming called proprioceptive input, which is pressure on the muscles and joints. Proprioceptive input sends signals to the brain that cause serotonin to be released, which is the neurotransmitter in the brain that makes people feel happy. An increase in serotonin causes natural melatonin to be released in the brain giving even more of a feeling of calm.
A more comfortable way to induce the “hugging” effect is by using a soft and pliable weighted blanket. Parents and dentists can use a toddler- or child-size weighted blanket on the child to soothe the anxiety from dental procedures.
Dentists and parents can get these weighted blankets from Cozy Calm.