Dental Phobia Patients May Benefit from CBT
According to new research, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) could help people overcome dental phobia enough to undergo treatment without sedation. The study was carried out at King’s College London and published in the British Dental Journal.
Dental Phobia – the use of CBT
Researchers looked at 130 people who feared dental treatment. These individuals feared treatment so much that they could only receive it under sedation or, in many cases, avoided going to see their dentist altogether.
The participants attended a therapy clinic at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, and after several sessions of CBT, 79% of them went on to have dental treatment without the need for sedation. 6% went on to have their dental treatment under sedation.
“The primary goal of our CBT service is to enable patients to receive dental treatment without the need for sedation, by working with each individual patient to set goals according to their priorities,” says study author Professor Tim Newton. “Our study shows that after an average of five CBT sessions, most people can go on to be treated by the dentist without the need to be sedated.”
Cognitive behavioural therapy is a talking therapy which aims to help people change negative thinking and behaviour patterns. It helps patients break down overwhelming problems into smaller parts and deal with them in a more positive way.
Professor Newton says that while sedation helps many anxious dental patients get through treatment, it does not help them overcome their fear. CBT can be a more helpful long-term solution to the problem.
However, other experts argue that a good dentist can do a lot to make scared patients feel more at ease. Dentist Ben Atkins says that in his 23-year career he has only ever referred two patients to have treatment under sedation.
“Personally I take it as a failure if I have to do that, because good dentistry should be all about communication with your patients and you should be able to talk any fears through,” he says. “It’s about putting the patient in control. These days, dentistry should be 100% pain free.”