If You're Terrified Of Going To The Dentist, Try This

Photographed by Brayden Olson.
For most of us, going to the dentist is a chance to pamper our pearly whites. But for others, it's like entering a den of endless nightmares. Luckily, a new study suggests that a commonly-used type of therapy may be a helpful way to calm these anxieties.

For the study, published last week in the British Dental Journal, researchers recruited 130 participants who all had a phobia of dentists. All participants took a survey about their general levels of anxiety. They were also asked how anxious they would be about certain dentistry-related events: Three-quarters of participants said they would be extremely anxious about needing to have a tooth drilled, 37% said that just being in the waiting room would make them that anxious, and 72% said they would be extremely anxious about needing an anesthetic injection.

All participants then received cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) specifically aimed at reducing their dental anxieties. Most of the time, CBT is a short-term program consisting of up to 10 sessions that focus on proactively changing your reactions to stressful stuff, like, say, having to make a dentist appointment. This usually involves doing "homework," such as tracking your negative thought patterns, outside of therapy sessions.

In this study, participants saw dramatic improvements quickly: After an average of just five sessions, 79% of participants were able to go through their dental procedures without the sedation they usually required.

Interestingly, over three quarters of patients included in this study were women. And other research has found that, overall, dental phobias are about twice as common among women than among men. In general, women are twice as likely to have any anxiety disorder than men, so this isn't totally surprising.

On top of all this, past research has found that a single session of CBT can help solve both short- and long-term bouts of insomnia. So if nightmares of dental drills are keeping you awake, that's yet another reason to give good ol' therapy a shot.

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