Treatment for odontophobia: “Now it is not that scary”

Name: Astrid Linder
Age: 10
What: Just finished an internet-based CBT treatment for odontophobia.

Astrid Linder. Foto: Malin Grönborg

“I have been afraid to go to the dentist since the first grade, so for three or four years. My mother heard about this treatment at Karolinska Institutet and helped me get a spot. First we got to read a chapter at the computer, and then we would try exposure. We got a set of dentist stuff to bring home, it was pretty exciting. My mother practiced on me. It was hard at first, but then it became easier. The most difficult parts were probably the probe, the syringe and the anaesthetic ointment, because it tasted pretty bad.

Once we were done with that, the next section became available. It contained information about relaxation, breathing, and fear and stuff. We were also given a pain thermometer and a fear thermometer, which we used a lot. I could use it to, for example, indicate how scared I was, during and after exposure. It felt really good because I could see how the fear level went down.

We also got to watch different kinds of videos, like one where they repaired a cavity and a finger getting pricked. I used to not be able to look at blood, so I found it uncomfortable when they pricked the finger, but after just three times, I could watch the whole video.

There were a total of twelve of these sections, and it was pretty difficult sometimes. Eventually, I went to see a dentist. During the first visit, we used the probe and the suction things. The second time, we used anaesthetic ointment and the syringe. And then the last time, we did everything. Something that came in handy was the stop hand, which I had learned during CBT. When I felt that I couldn’t go any further, all I had to do was raise my hand so that I did not need to talk, and then we stopped.

Now it is not that scary to go to the dentist because I have been there quite a lot by now. I am not nearly as scared as I used to be.”

Text: Fredrik Hedlund, first published in Swedish in Medicinsk Vetenskap No 4/2019

Content reviewer: