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06 November 2023

Using Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for dental phobia

The King’s and GSTT Dental Psychology Service provide an update to their successful training service.

The updated manual "Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for Dental Anxiety"

For some people the thought of going to the dentist is terrifying. Psychologists at King’s College London’s Faculty of Dentistry, Oral & Craniofacial Sciences and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust have been working over the last 15 years to find out more about dental phobia to help people conquer their fear.

The King's College London / GSTT Dental Psychology Service was the first CBT based service dedicated to the management of individuals with dental phobia. In 2008 the team produced a training model and manual which has been updated with expanded resources for assessment and conduct of CBT. They have also added new sections on supervision and considerations for setting up a service such as rooms and staffing.

The training service was identified as a model of excellent practice by the Department of Health and has been included in the UK guidance on the management of patients with dental anxiety.

Said Tim Newton, Professor of Psychology as Applied to Dentistry:

“We are regularly approached by dental services in the UK to support them in developing similar services and we have helped set up 12 such services. To do this we run courses, based around our Manual which provides the background to CBT based in interventions as well as resources to support the delivery of CBT.”

“For many patients a bad experience at the dentist can leave them with a life-long phobia which could result in avoidance of check-ups for many years. 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.”

Find out more about the research into dental phobia here:

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J. Tim Newton

Professor of Psychology as Applied to Dentistry