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Cognitive behavioural therapy can help people overcome their fear of the dentist

In 2008, psychologists working with dental patients at King’s College London developed the UK’s first dedicated cognitive behaviour therapy service for individuals with dental phobia. The training model they produced has has now been rolled out in half a dozen locations across the UK.


The primary goal of our CBT service is to enable patients to receive dental treatment without the need for sedation, by working with each individual patient to set goals according to their priorities.

Professor Tim Newton from the Dental Institute and lead of the team


Anxiety about visiting the dentist is common and becomes a phobia when it has a marked impact on someone’s well-being; people with dental phobias typically avoid going to the dentist and end up experiencing more dental pain, poorer oral health and a detrimental effect on their quality of life.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a short-term therapy, typically lasting 6-10 sessions. CBT has been shown to help with a range of psychological problems, most notably for depression and anxiety-related disorders, but now it has been shown to be successful in reducing dental anxiety and increasing dental attendance.

After completing a study that showed that four-fifths (79%) of dental-phobic patients who attended the CBT service then went on to have dental treatment without the need for sedation, the team at King’s Dental Institute developed a training service which has enabled other dental teams across the UK to set up CBT sessions for patients with dental-phobia in their areas. More information on the full study can be found on the King’s website.

The CBT service developed at King’s is now available in Edinburgh, Lancaster, Port Talbot, Birmingham, and shortly it will also be available on the Isle of Man.

The team involved include a clinical team: Professor Tim Newton and Dr Jennifer Hare, and an academic team: Dr Koula Asimakopoulou and Dr Suzanne Scott.

Image credit: At the dentist. Female denstist in action – cc Nikodash