Psychosomatic Implications of Environmental Alternatives in the Dental Office


Mary F. Robertson, Ph.D., Associate of Psychiatry, University of Florida, 1980



(discussion section only)


Environmental alternatives are not usually considered when focusing on patients with psychosomatic diseases. However, it is recognized that environmentally alien structures produce uneasiness and at times hostility to the structures that cause alienation. Children have little opportunity to express or to formulate ways in which environments would be more compatible with them. Hospitals for children are increasingly designing environments for the psychological well-being of the patients. At Children's Hospital in Washington, viewing areas have been inserted so that children can see down into lower areas of the building. Playrooms are arranged so that children go directly from them into surgery areas (in personal observation).

Dentists are increasingly aware of the need to develop alternative parallel enivronmental experiences for their patients. Pain is no longer considered something to be stoically endued. It is recognized as alterable both psychologically as well as environmentally. Dr. Chang's Disco/Dental Complex is an environmental approach to depressing the pain/fear factors in dental treatment. Longitudinal studies are needed to determine in what ways children cope differently with dental treatment when there are environmental alternatives.

It is also important in all health care delivery to recognize that painful procedures are not confined to the time in which they occur. Freud has pointed out the long-term significance in the life cycle of psychological trauma. The use of alternate environments in Dental Complexes addresses the concern of individuals who are involved in the psychological factors in health care.