Our brains control our emotions. But did you know that you can influence these emotions by using external stimuli such as scent? This is important, as by using scenting you can help patients struggling with dental phobias and anxiety.
The science behind fear
Fear awakens the “fight or flight” response that originates from a part of our brains called the amygdala. This small part of the brain is responsible for a wide range of emotional responses. In the presence of a perceived threat (like a visit to the dentist), this part of the brain kicks into overdrive. It releases stress hormones, increasing your heart rate and sending blood to your muscles.
Luckily, fear is tempered by another part of the brain – the hippocampus. The hippocampus processes perceived threats in relation to the surrounding circumstances. For example, seeing an alligator in the wild will incite fear. Seeing one in the zoo, when your brain knows you’re safe, is more likely to inspire more positive feelings or awe and wonder.[i]
Fragrances and the brain
So, if perception and reactions in the brain cause fear, it makes sense that external stimuli could produce a countering effect.
We know that scent has an interesting influence on the brain. Certain fragrances produce calming effects which can override the response of fear. This occurs because the olfactory bulb (the part of the brain responsible for processing odours) is closely linked with the amygdala and hippocampus.[ii]
Calming scents include neroli, vanilla, frankincense, lavender, bergamot, clary sage, patchouli and chamomile.[iii] Lavender, in particular, has long been used to treat people with nervous dispositions and to encourage relaxation. Science has confirmed that the scent of this flower is effective at de-stressing people and calming them down.[iv]
Introducing scent into your practice
So how do you introduce scent into your practice? It’s important to remember that a lot of air fresheners and other products can be messy and leave water droplets. These scents also usually disperse after a while. Furthermore, those suffering from asthma or with allergies can react badly to air fresheners.[v]
As such, a solution like the Premium Scenting Cube from Initial Medical is an excellent alternative to traditional air fresheners. Not only can this portable scenting device be placed anywhere in your practice, it effectively scents spaces up to 285m3 with its unique AirQ™ technology, which produces droplets that are 50 times smaller than a traditional aerosol. With a catalogue of calming scents available, including lavender, and a variety of intensity levels, this scenting solution is perfect for all practices.
[i] Smithsonian. What Happens In The Brain When We Feel Fear. Link: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/what-happens-brain-feel-fear-180966992/ [Last accessed July 19].
[ii] How Stuff Works. Can Perfume Help Me Conquer My Fears? Link: https://lifestyle.howstuffworks.com/style/body-scents-fragrances/can-perfume-help-me-conquer-my-fears.htm [Last accessed July 19].
[iii] How Stuff Works. Can Perfume Help Me Conquer My Fears? Link: https://lifestyle.howstuffworks.com/style/body-scents-fragrances/can-perfume-help-me-conquer-my-fears.htm [Last accessed July 19].
[iv] Science Daily. The Smell of Lavender is Relaxing, Science Confirms. Link: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181023085648.htm [Last accessed July 19].
[v] Medical News Today. Air Fresheners Can Trigger Allergy Symptoms. Link: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/237311.php [Last accessed July 19].