Odontophobia, or dental anxiety, affects 5 to 10 percent of adults, preventing them from seeking dental treatment due to their fear. Dentists attempt to counteract this by adopting procedures that calm down patients, applying a generally more sympathetic approach to the act of sitting on a dentist’s chair. More than soothing words or anaesthesia, a new way of helping patients overcome odontophobia has emerged, and it is the most ‘in keeping with the times’ yet.
Video presentations are now helping patients conquer their uneasiness and anxiety. Teeth whitening dentists from Liverpool say that the video-based ‘dental anxiety intervention’, which was developed by psychologists from Temple University in the U.S., eases patients’ feelings of loss of control by showing them videos of the procedure they are about to undergo, peppered with encouraging statements throughout.
Professor Richard Heimberg, the developer of the video-based procedure, cites Rebecca Clay and her study published in the American Psychological Association’s Monitor on Psychology magazine, and how it inspired his clinic to refine the presented techniques which included cognitive behavioural therapy, relaxation therapy, medication, acupuncture, hypnosis, musical distraction and gradual exposure.
Heimberg describes the three videos his ‘dental anxiety intervention’ requires. The first shows a dentist performing the procedure, accompanied by an animated graphic explaining it. The second is a close-up video of a patient’s face during a dentist’s therapeutic conversation, helping the patients translate their anxiety into positive, relatable thoughts. Finally, the video patient provides a voice-over for the actual patient during the procedure for them to develop ‘coping thoughts’.
The video-based procedure proved effective in the trials Prof. Heimberg’s team conducted. Among the 151 odontophobic patients studied, the team noted a significant, long-lasting reduction in anxiety. A follow-up observation even discovered that a number of trial patients had let go of their phobia entirely.
Particular triggers of odontophobia vary with each person, but Prof. Heimberg’s new video-based method may just be the simplest, most effective and digitally familiar solution.