Resources and training
With input from young people, parents and dentists, we created a set of accessible CBT resources called Your Teeth — You Are in Control. These include a self-help booklet for children, plus supporting guides for parents or carers, and the dental team.
The booklet contains simple CBT-based activities that young patients complete with their dentist. These help children understand their worries and make a plan for their treatment.
For example, one activity looks at different coping strategies like asking questions or listening to music. It’s an effective way to open up communication, build trust, and give children a sense of control.
To underpin the resources, we designed a training programme to increase practitioners' understanding of dental anxiety and how to manage it. I also led the development of the Children's Experiences of Dental Anxiety Measure (CEDAM), which helps dentists recognise and respond to changes in patient anxiety.
When we tested the resources with real patients, we found a reduction in dental anxiety — and an improvement in quality of life. Importantly, they helped children living in areas of high deprivation, who are more likely to be referred to specialist services and face additional barriers to timely dental treatment.
Now, Your Teeth — You Are in Control has been adopted by dental services across the UK, and is helping transform children’s care. It’s won awards for its focus on patient empowerment and has been translated into 10 different languages.
Dentists told us that the intervention improved their anxiety management skills and changed the way they work. It’s given them the tools to help anxious patients get the care they need, and reduced stress on the whole dental team.
This led to five UK dental schools including the intervention in their undergraduate and postgraduate courses.
We’re already starting to see its economic potential too. In Sheffield alone, it’s reduced missed appointments by 10% — which could lead to a yearly saving of over £78,000. The resources could also cut costly general anaesthetic procedures by more than 50%.
We’re now planning to scale up the project as part of a larger trial. We hope the resources will then be rolled out across the NHS, so more young people can conquer their fears and get the care they deserve.