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Dreading the Drill? Therapy Can Ease Dental Phobia

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It makes sense to Rothbaum, who directs the trauma and anxiety recovery program at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. "The truth of the matter is, I don't think anyone really likes going to the dentist. So it's not that you completely switch and say, 'Oh I love this.' But you can get over the excessive fear that might keep you from going."

In nearly 20 years of practice, she says, "I've treated people with almost every kind of phobia you can think of. Most phobias are highly treatable in two sessions."

With dental phobia, therapy might focus on the drill, she explains. "We focus on whatever it is that bothers them. If they're avoiding it completely, you help them learn to relax more, feel more comfortable with it.

"If they're just really uptight, you want to do exactly what these researchers did, teach them a package of anxiety management techniques. Besides the relaxation therapy, try cognitive therapy techniques -- coping thoughts, coping self-statements -- rather than 'Oh my God, this is going to hurt so much' it's 'I can handle this one step at a time. I can do this for my dental health and hygiene,'" says Rothbaum.

Nelson, of Atlanta's Mercer University School of Medicine, describes a typical cognitive therapy session. "You imagine you're in the dentist's chair, imagine the drill, imagine the needle. In an actual desensitization session, the psychiatrist may show you pictures, 'walk you' into the imaginary dental chair," says Nelson.

Is a tranquilizer necessary? Generally, no, Rothbaum tells WebMD. "If they're coming to me for a couple sessions of treatment, they probably don't need medications. If they do, something like this, a short-acting tranquilizer, is the way to go."

 

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

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American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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