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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A New Way To Treat Pediatric Dental Anxiety

It’s not uncommon for children to be a touch resistant to the idea of going to the dentist. However, some children suffer from a near paralyzing fear of going to a dental visit. These children suffer from a phobia known as dental anxiety. It can seriously impact their ability to receive proper dental care throughout their lives. There are many adults who suffered from dental anxiety as a child who still struggle with it as adults. Thankfully, there’s a new approach to treating dental phobia that may help.

How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is Treating Dental Anxiety

It’s important that those who are experiencing dental anxiety find a way to reduce the intensity of their symptoms. In the past pharmacological tools have been the primary approach in the form of nitrous oxide or oral sedatives. While these have been effective for many patients, it’s a suboptimal approach overall. Thankfully, new techniques involving cognitive behavioral therapy are showing promising results.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a method of psychotherapy that has been in use for decades. Its primary use is for treating depression, eating disorders, and certain phobias. Only recently, however, has it been used in treating patients with dental anxiety, particularly children. During treatment, therapists apply specific techniques to aid patients in developing certain emotional and mental strategies to deal with stress.

CBT therapy often involves certain steps to help achieve the desired goal:

  • The patient will attend weekly visits over several months
  • Steps will be taken to aid in altering how they think about the stressful issue
  • Work is done to help alter behaviors related to the issue
  • The patient is helped to understand their underlying thoughts about their issue.
  • Steps are taken to help the patient to change these thought patterns

This approach has been demonstrated to be effective for altering the emotional and behavioral responses related to dental anxiety. The success rate of this approach has been notable, with a reduction in anxiety being achieved in most of the participating children. 

It’s important to realize that CBT isn’t a cure that will work overnight. Those who experience results have kept up with the process consistently over a period of months. While it takes time to work successfully, the benefits to the children involved have been significant. The long-term benefits of being able to receive proper dental care without fear are profound.

Studies have shown that poor oral health can have a significant impact on many areas of our lives. Children with dental health concerns frequently have trouble doing well in school. This can carry on to their college years, and even impact them as they pursue their career.

Talk To Your Dentist About Using CBT to Treat Dental Anxiety

Effectively treating dental anxiety is essential to ensuring ongoing good oral health. Your dentist is a good resource for mental health specialists that specialize in this form of treatment. If they don’t have a good recommendation, take some time to call around to other local dentists or mental health providers. They’re sure to be able to point you in the right direction.

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