Page last updated at 12:05 GMT, Friday, 12 September 2008 13:05 UK

Lavender 'calms dental patients'

Lavender is known for its calming properties

It is said to soothe headaches and aid sleep - now lavender has been shown to help cope with a trip to the dentist.

A study of 340 people by King's College London researchers found those exposed to lavender oil scent were less anxious about the treatment ahead.

But the British Psychological Society conference heard lavender had no effect on their nerves about future treatment.

Dentists said techniques such as hypnotherapy, rather than oils, were common ways of helping calm patients.

Finding a way of reducing dental anxiety is really important
Metaxia Kritsidima, researcher

All the patients studied were waiting for a scheduled dental appointment.

Half were exposed to the scent given off by a candle warmer activating five drops of lavender oil in water during regular clinics over a four-week period, while the rest were not.

The anxiety level of those not exposed to lavender was 10.7 compared with 7.4 among those smelling the scent.

'On-the-spot' treatment

Metaxia Kritsidima, who led the study, said: "A substantial number of people avoid going to dental surgeries because they are scared of the dentist, which can have a significant impact on their dental health.

"The anxiety experienced by these patients once they get to the dentist is stressful not only for them, but also for the dental team.

"Working under a state of increased tension may potentially compromise their performance, as well as lengthening appointment times.

"This is why finding a way of reducing dental anxiety is really important."

Dr Koula Asimakopoulou, who also worked on the study, added: "This is a significant difference and it was present regardless of the type of dental appointment."

And she added: "Our findings suggest that lavender could certainly be used as an effective "on-the-spot" anxiety reduction in dentists' waiting rooms."

A spokeswoman for the British Dental Association said: "Dentists use a range of techniques to help patients feel calm; some specialise in hypnotherapy or counselling - but I haven't heard of anyone using lavender oil."

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