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Behavioral Therapy May Benefit Patients With Dental Phobias

Individuals who fear the dentist may avoid the dental office for years, leading to poor oral health and lack of trust.

Individuals who fear the dentist may avoid the dental office for years, leading to poor oral health and lack of trust. And while avoidance is a typical response for those who experience dental phobia, hope exists in the form of cognitive behavioral therapy. A new study conducted at King’s College in London reveals that a combination of behavioral modification and talk therapies may provide a viable long-term solution to dental anxiety and fear.

The study examined 130 patients who experienced dental anxiety, due mostly to fear of dental injections and/or drilling. Seventy six percent of patients received cognitive behavioral therapy over a total of five sessions. Of those treated, 79% went on to receive dental care without the need for sedation or injection. Tactics employed comprise exposure therapy, relaxation therapy, and discussion of self-control. Study results were published in the paper “Characteristics of Patients Attending for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy at One UK Specialist Unit for Dental Phobia and Outcomes of Treatment” in the November 2015 edition of the British Dental Journal. Future studies are planned to examine the long-term effects and required time investment of such treatment.


From Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. January 2016;14(01):14.

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