A randomized controlled trial of the effect of a brief cognitive-behavioral intervention on dental fear

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The objective of this study was to examine the effect of a brief cognitive-behavioral intervention for patients with dental fear in a private dental clinic.


Patients presenting with subjectively reported dental fear were randomly assigned to either an immediate intervention (n = 53) or a waiting list (n = 51) group. Both groups received an identical intervention, but delayed by 4–6 weeks in the waiting list group. Participants were asked to fill out two self-report questionnaires of dental fear at pre- and post-intervention, and again at a 2-year follow-up assessment.


Analysis of variance showed that dental fear was significantly reduced in the immediate intervention group (d = 1.5–2.2), compared with the waiting list group (d = 0.3–0.4). Additionally, all participants showed a significant reduction of dental fear following the brief intervention, and in the subgroup available for follow-up, this effect was maintained after 2 years.


This indicates that a brief cognitive-behavioral intervention may be efficacious in helping a significant number of patients with dental fear return to regular dental treatment. Future research should investigate the applicability of a brief cognitive-behavioral intervention in the dental clinic.

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