Children are often reluctant about going to the dentist, and everyone knows this. However, some children experience genuine anxiety when faced with the dentist. This is also called a phobia of the dentist. This anxiety can be frustrating for the parent, but can also negatively influence the ability to receive dental care. Even though some adults still suffer from the same anxiety that they experienced as children. Luckily, there is an approach to treating this anxiety.
Treatment of Dental Anxiety Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
It’s imperative that those suffering from dental anxiety are treated for it. In the past, the primary treatment for this was medication in the form of nitrous oxide or other sedatives. These methods are effective for most patients, they are still seen as substandard options. There are, however, more effective techniques that are showing promising results.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a form of psychotherapy. It’s been used for decades. Its primary purpose is to treat depression, eating disorders, and other phobias. Recently, it’s been used to treat patients with dental phobia, primarily children. During CBT sessions, therapists use individualized techniques to aid in overcoming their fear. These sessions help develop new emotional and mental approaches to overcoming stress.
CBT involves certain steps to achieve the desired goal:
- Patients come back weekly for several months
- Steps to alter how the patient views the stressful issue are taken
- Behaviors that are related to the issue are worked on
- An understanding of the underlying issue is reached
- Steps are taken to change certain thought patterns
This approach is successful in changing emotional and behavioral responses to dental anxiety. This type of therapy has a notable success rate, reducing anxiety in most of the participating children. It has also been effective in adults who experience anxiety when going to the dentist.
CBT is effective, but it isn’t a quick fix, nor does it happen overnight. Most patients who experience positive results return to sessions weekly for several months. But the patients who do return for their weekly sessions have been able to receive proper dental care without fear of the dentist.
Poor oral health can negatively impact many aspects of your life. This can impact how well they do in school for children, especially. That impact can follow them through college, and later in their careers.
Discussing CBT With Your Dentist to Treat Dental Anxiety
Treating dental anxiety can lead to proper dental care. It can also lead to a boost in confidence when your teeth are properly cared for. Your dentist can refer you to mental health professionals who specialize in this field of therapy. If they don’t know of any therapists who do, take the time to call around to other dentists or mental health clinics. They should be able to help you find the right person to talk to about CBT. Don’t be afraid to ask if they know of someone, even if your dentist isn’t able to help at first. Even if that particular dentist doesn’t know, there’s bound to be someone that does!