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CBT could conquer dentist phobia

CBT could conquer dentist phobia

It's a rare person who doesn't mind going to the dentist. Most of us have a few pangs when the dreaded appointment comes around, but for some even the thought of the noise of the drill is enough to cause a cold sweat. In fact, as many as one in five people hate the prospect so much they never go for check-ups - which could obviously mean they're in for more problems in the long run. Help could be at hand though, as researchers in London, UK, have found that cognitive behavioural therapy can dramatically improve things for anyone terrified of treatment.

"People with dental phobia are most commonly given sedation to allow them to become relaxed enough for a short period of time to have their dental treatment performed," Professor Tim Newton, who led the King’s College team, explained.

"However, this does not help them to overcome their fear in the long term. The primary goal of our CBT service is to enable patients to receive dental treatment without the need for sedation. Our study shows that after on average five CBT sessions, most people can go on to be treated by the dentist without the need to be sedated."

In fact, four out of five people with a severe phobia were able to go to the dentists and not receive sedation after the treatment. The research involved 99 women and 31 men, all of whom were very nervous about the dentist and had ended up with dental problems because of their reluctance to receive treatment. After their therapy sessions, 79 per cent were able to sit through a dentist session unaided.

Those involved in the study were carefully vetted by people trained in CBT, and it was found that some of them suffered with general anxiety or depression.

This type of therapy is often used to help people who have general anxiety disorder, working by encouraging them to get in touch with their feelings to help change their behaviour.

If you are nervous about going to the dentist but to a lesser degree, don't feel you have to suffer in silence. Many medical professionals will have ways to make things easier for you, as explained by Dr. Rhona Eskander of the Chelsea Dental Clinic.

"Hypnotherapy is actually available, a lot of dentists do do it," she told Cover Media. "I find that talking patients through things is really important... I try to find out what the patient’s actually scared of. Are you scared of the injection or the noises of the drill, the pain, the fear of the unknown? What is it? And then I try to address it. Some people are really scared of the noise of the drill, so I say bring in your iPod or we’ll put on whatever radio station you want and I put it on really loudly to try to distract them. Also talking in a way the patient understands – I think jargon is terrible."

Cover Media