letter to the editor

A gift of music from my dentist

Posted:  Monday, February 12, 2018 - 3:30pm

Dear Editor:

As a child, a dentist visit was not something leading you to jump for joy. This was before high speed drills and Novocaine. Dentists for children had to be creative. When he was checking our teeth we were asked to count the number of blue or green cars that drove by his office. When he was drilling a cavity we had to watch two cotton balls to see how many times the red cotton (fox) caught up with the white cotton (rabbit).  After all was done we got to pick a toy from the box in the lobby.  We loved the dentist.

In 1982 when I moved to Massachusetts I had a dentist appointment for a 2-3 hour plaque cleaning job - without Novocaine. Dentists prefer Novocaine because they don’t like to hurt people, but I had learned to live without.

After our mutual introductions, she asked me what was my favorite music. I loved Mozart. She quickly loaded the listening device, handed it to me to put in my ear for a Novocaine solution. While my teeth might complain later, I was in my own world of music. Today we know music has an ability to pump us up or calm us down. At one point it was so beautiful I was crying because she could not hear it.

In my early twenties I had met two singing banjo players. One of them had a slight stutter when he spoke, but never when he sang. It turned out that singing had been his recommended treatment. Later I taught an after school 3rd grade homework class using baby Mozart in the background. The kids loved it. Remembering these events led me down the music research path. 

Today, music has a medical role in healing, even though scientists are still figuring out what's going on in our brains when we listen to music and how it produces such potent effects. Medicine uses music for stuttering, Parkinson's, aphasia, and autism. Over the past few decades, there has been growing evidence supporting the potential utility of music in medicine. All of this I learned and shared after remembering the music gift from my dentist.

Jarryl Larson