Dental Tribune America

Video program may help dental anxiety patients

By Dental Tribune International
June 17, 2013

SEATTLE, Wash., USA: Many patients report significant fear of dental injections, leading them to avoid dental visits. However, their fear could be reduced through a computer program. In a recent study, researchers found that watching the program's videos led to significant changes in self-reported fear in the study participants and increased their willingness to undergo a dental injection.

The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Washington School of Dentistry in eight sites in the U.S. in collaboration with the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research between January 2008 and July 2010. It included 96 healthy individuals aged 18 and older with a significant fear of dental injections.

Participants in the active treatment group completed one to nine 45-minute weekly sessions of self-paced computerized treatment based on systematic desensitization for fear of dental injections called Computer Assisted Relaxation Learning (CARL). Individuals in the control group met with a dental assistant once for approximately 15 minutes to go over a pamphlet reassuring patients about dental injections.

The researchers found that participants in the CARL group reported significantly greater reduction in general and injection-specific dental anxiety compared with control individuals. More than 35 percent of the CARL group agreed to a dental injection after the intervention, compared with 18 percent of the control group.

The interactive computer program includes two training videos that teach patients deep breathing, distraction and muscle relaxation techniques to use to combat fear. In addition, the program takes patients through a hierarchy of seven two-minute video segments of an actor going through the steps involved in undergoing a dental injection. The patient can stop the video at any time and is regularly asked to report his or her level of fear. The data is added to the study database automatically. When a patient reports fear higher than a four on a one-to-nine scale, the computer redirects the patient to the preceding video. If a patient reports low fear, he or she continues to the next video. Patients continue viewing the videos in this manner until all seven segments have been viewed with low anxiety. The program is designed to be used once a week, with a time limit of 30 minutes for viewing the videos.

According to the researchers, 1 in 4 adults report a clinically significant fear of dental injections.

The study, titled "Computerized Dental Injection Fear Treatment: A Randomized Clinical Trial," was published online on May 20 in the Journal of Dental Research ahead of print.

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