Individuals with a high level of dental anxiety are more likely to avoid trips to the dentist. As a result of this avoidance, they often experience a more advanced level of dental problems which, when finally treated, serve to reinforce their fears of the dentist. To address this repeating cycle, researchers in the UK tested CBT, a “talk therapy” technique, to see if it might help patients with dental phobia and/or dental anxiety.
For the British study, conducted by King’s College London Dental Institute, researchers selected cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which replaces negative thoughts with positive ones to equip patients to address their fears. Of the 130 men and women in the study, nearly 100 had such a high degree of generalized dental phobia that they either avoided the dentist completely or required sedation to get through an appointment at a dental office, even for something as minor as routine dental cleanings. Others in the study experienced a high degree of anxiety about specifictreatments, such as injections or the use of a drill, but were able to go to the dentist for care.
In therapy sessions, the patients were taught to identify fear-related thoughts and to replace those thoughts with more helpful ones. Additionally, they were given information about dental treatments to counteract misinformation and negative thoughts. Patients were given specific techniques, such as controlled breathing and muscle relaxation, to cope with dental anxiety. They were also instructed to gradually picture themselves in fearful dental situations to cope with the fears in a controlled environment.
The study findings were published in the British Dental Journal. To read more about this research study, click here.
Here in our NYC dental practice, we’re familiar with dental phobia and dental anxiety. We know that, among our many patients, some of them fear any encounter at our dental office. We provide sedation dentistry for those who need it, which enables them to undergo dental care with the least amount of stress. If you or a loved one experience dental phobia or dental anxiety, talk to us about your fears. We’re here to help!