Behavioral therapy better than hypnosis for dental anxiety

A recent study published in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics examines alternatives to general anesthesia for patients who have dental anxiety. Cognitive behavioral treatment (CBT) was better than hypnosis among alternatives to general anesthesia for treating dental anxiety, the researchers found.

The researchers from tye department of clinical psychology at the University of Wuppertal in Germany and the St. Augusta Hospital Dental Clinic conducted a practice-based study to assess the comparative effectiveness and acceptability of standardized hypnosis, hypnosis with individualized imagery, CBT and general anesthesia in treating dental phobia (Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, April 2011, Vol. 80:3, pp. 159-165).

The researchers used a four-group design with four repeated measurement occasions. Of an initial total of 137 patients with dental phobias, 77 completed the study with sample sizes of between 14 and 29 patients in the four groups. Participants completed questionnaires of dental anxiety at the beginning of the trial, before and after the first dental appointment, and again before the second dental appointment a week later.

Standardized hypnosis showed a significantly higher rate of premature termination of treatment than CBT. The completed analysis showed a significant reduction of dental anxiety after CBT and individualized hypnosis compared with general anesthesia. The intent-to-treat analysis showed significant improvement only after CBT. The results suggest that CBT is the treatment of choice for dental phobia when taking both effectiveness and acceptability into account, the researchers concluded.

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