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Reducing anxiety in dental patients with EFT: A clinical study

By Graham Temple


In spite of all the many technological advances in dentistry, visits to the dentist still cause great anxiety. It is estimated that 1 in 3 adults suffers moderate to severe anxiety when faced with dental treatment, whilst in children the figure is similar. (British Dental Association, 1995).

This anxiety tends to make dental treatment more difficult, which only leads to further anxiety, as well as being stressful, time consuming & exhausting for the dentist & staff. A simple, rapid yet effective method of reducing dental anxiety would make dental treatment so much more acceptable for all concerned.

Aims and Objectives

The aim of this study was to determine the effects of EFT on anxious dental patients immediately prior to dental treatment.

The objective was to demonstrate that EFT would be an effective and practical way of reducing anxiety in dental patients.


a) When patients were examined, those who required operative treatment, such as fillings, extractions or crown & bridge work, were asked if the thought of the proposed treatment caused them any anxiety.

b) Patients who stated that they usually did feel anxious were asked if they would like to try out EFT. The process was explained briefly, usually as “psychological acupressure.”

c) All the patients who agreed to try EFT (this was almost everyone) were given appointments which included an extra 10 minutes to explain EFT further and administer EFT.

d) At that next appointment, patients were asked to rate their anxiety on a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 was total calm and 10 would be the most anxious they could be. (SUD).

e) Only patients who gave a rating of 6 or more were used for the study, which consisted of 30 patients.

f) EFT was described to each patient, followed by the application of EFT. The basic recipe was used initially, with variations later as appropriate, until the patient stated that they did not need any more, or 6 minutes had elapsed. Then another SUD rating was taken.

g) This was followed immediately by the dental treatment. All patients were informed that they could tap on the points on their hands if they felt it was necessary.

h) Following treatment the patients were asked to comment on their experience.


Total pre-EFT anxiety score 241

Average pre-EFT anxiety score 8

Total post-EFT anxiety score 91

Average post-EFT anxiety score 3

Greatest reduction 8 (2 cases)

Lowest reduction 2 (2 cases)

Percentage reduction in anxiety to 3 or less 72.6%


Click here for a graphical analysis (3 graphs in pdf format)


Although this study is quite a small one, and with many patients EFT was stopped at the designated time allowed, rather than carrying on with EFT to a successful conclusion, it does show that EFT reduced anxiety in all cases, with almost 3 out of 4 patients achieving a level of comfort and feeling of control that allowed them to cope really well with the dental work carried out.

The overall reduction in anxiety is of great benefit not only to the patients, but the dentist and the whole dental team, as the provision of dentistry is easier, quicker and far less nerve-wracking for all concerned.

It is important to note that, in this study, no patient reduced their score to zero. When having dental treatment, particularly invasive procedures such as an injection of local anaesthetic, it is understandable to have a small amount of apprehension, as long as it is small, and most important, allows the patient to feel relatively comfortable and in control. Approximately 80% of the patients stated that this was the case after EFT in this study.