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CBT can help with dentist phobias

A new study from King’s College London has found that cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help alleviate people’s fear of going to the dentist.

Patients were found to be less likely to require sedation for dental procedures if they had undergone a course of CBT, which is also used for psychological conditions such as anxiety and depression.

Almost all of the 130 people (99 women and 31 men) who took part in the study had suffered in the past with poor oral health due to their fear of visiting the dentist. Problems with teeth can lead to lower quality of life, complications and long-term pain.

After the therapy, 79 per cent of the patients were able to undergo dental treatment without sedation. Six per cent of the participants had the treatment under sedation, and the remainder did not attend.

Before the treatment, 75 per cent of the participants had anxiety scores that indicated they had a general dental phobia. In addition to this, 37 per cent had high levels of general anxiety, 12 per cent had clinically significant depression, 12 per cent had experienced suicidal thoughts and three per cent reported a recent intention to commit suicide.

Lead author Tim Newton said: “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. 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, by working with each individual patient to set goals according to their priorities. 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.”

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