The use of choice-based distraction to decrease the distress of children at the dentist

Holly A. Filcheck, Keith D. Allen, Hilary Ogren, James Brant Darby, Brian Holstein, Steve Hupp

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


This research was conducted to examine whether choice-based distraction provides an effective means of reducing the distress of children undergoing routine dental treatment. Sixty children between the ages of 5-12 who required restorative dental treatment were assigned randomly to either a Control group or a Distraction group in which the participants were permitted to choose from a variety of music, soundtracks, and/or audio stories to listen to while undergoing dental treatment. They also could change selections during treatment. Direct observations of disruptive behavior provided measures of overall dis ruptiveness during treatment. The participants also provided self-reported ratings of approval and discomfort. There were no significant differences between the two study groups with respect to average disruptive behavior. However, the Distraction group had significantly fewer participants that would have been considered clinically "uncooperative" and twice as many participants that would be rated "very positive" by dentists. Because Choice-based distraction is a relatively easy procedure to implement, it may provide health care professionals and parents alike with a valuable alternative means of reducing the distress of children who visit the dentist. Additional benefits and limitations are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-68
Number of pages10
JournalChild and Family Behavior Therapy
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2004


  • Children
  • Choice
  • Dental treatment
  • Disruptive behavior
  • Distraction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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