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Anxiety and Stress Disorders (Children)

Dental Phobias in Teens

04/11/2002

Question:

I have a 13 year old niece who has a fear of dental procedures. She starts crying before the dentist even begins work on her. She says she is scared of needles, yet she has had several surgeries on her feet and faces those with no problem. We have switched dentists, but that hasn`t helped. What do you suggest?

Answer:

This problem sounds like a simple phobia to me and requires specific behavioral treatments such as `desensitization` or `flooding` which can be accomplished by a behavioral therapist. About 10-15% of the population are afraid of needles or procedures particularly dental procedures. This is a common problem encountered by dentists who try very hard to overcome these fears by simple behavioral techniques, when these do not work in their office, the child requires therapy prior to reintroduction to the dentist.

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Response by:

Floyd R Sallee, MD
Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati