New Guide May Help Your Young Patients Conquer Dental Fear

Researchers at the University of Sheffield developed the guide, which uses Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), to help children feel more at ease.

that a team of British academics have developed a guide that uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to make children feel more at ease about seeing the dentist. The researchers’ work was first published online by JDR Clinical & Transitional Research.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), CBT “focuses on exploring relationships among a person's thoughts, feelings and behaviors. During CBT a therapist will actively work with a person to uncover unhealthy patterns of thought and how they may be causing self-destructive behaviors and beliefs.”

Medical Express quotes study author Zoe Marshman (BDS, MPH, DDPH, FDS, PhD) of the University of Sheffield’s School of Clinical Dentistry as saying, “Children who are scared of the dentist often end up with poor dental health and stay scared of the dentist for the rest of their lives.

"At the moment, most of these children end up having sedation or being given a general anesthetic for their dental treatment. This can be a traumatic experience for children and their parents."

A 2013 study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research reinforces just how widespread the issue of childhood fear of the dentist is. The study estimates that internationally, anywhere from 5-20% of children and adolescents have dental fear and anxiety (DFA). The guide and CBT are steps toward addressing those patients’ needs.

In this particular study, researchers at the University of Sheffield first created the guide in collaboration with 24 families and 25 dental professionals to develop and analyze its efficacy.

Researchers then gathered a group of children, ages 9-16, who reported experiencing stress and anxiety about seeing the dentist. This group was then surveyed prior to the administration of CBT to gauge their baseline level of dental anxiety. Fifty-six agreed to go through with the trial and 48 completed the study by making use of the guide.

Children who used the CBT material experienced a statistically significant decline in their self-reported anxiety levels. Sixty percent said they felt better about receiving dental treatment after using the CBT guide.

The CBT guide is available for purchase here.