The Effect of Emotional Freedom Techniques on Patients with Dental Anxiety: A Pilot Study

doi 10.9769/EPJ.2017.9.1.BS

Bita Saleh, Monica Tiscione, and John Freedom


This pilot study explored the effectiveness of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) as a treatment for dental anxiety. Participants (N = 8) were dental patients with anxiety. Four were assigned to the experimental EFT group and four to a non-treatment control condition (reading a golf magazine). The intervention consisted of a variant of EFT involving tapping acupressure points without verbalizing cognitive affirmations. Participants were assessed using the STAI-S(sf), six questions from the State subset of the anxiety scale of the Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory to create the short form of the questionnaire. Each participant visualized being present in a dental chair while the researcher recounted aloud a list of dental triggers specific to each participant. The participant then completed the STAI assessment, followed by either the acupressure tapping intervention or reading a magazine (for the control group). After this one brief (four-minute) intervention or reading period, participants again listened to the list of their specific dental triggers read aloud and were then retested while again listening to their list of triggers. The mean STAI-S(sf) scores obtained by the control group before (x = 62) and after (x = 59) differed by only 3 points (–6%). In contrast, the mean STAI-S(sf) score obtained by the EFT group before tapping acupressure points (x = 72) dropped 26 points (x = 46, –35%). An ANOVA revealed a statistically significant within subjects main effect of Time (F = 6.76, p = .04), and a Treatment Group x Time interaction (F = 4.42, p = .08), which approached statistical significance. These data are consistent with previous EFT studies and a recent meta-analysis of EFT treatment for anxiety and phobias, and suggest that a very brief, one-session treatment of acupressure tapping can be effective in rapidly reducing dental anxiety.

Keywords: EFT, Emotional Freedom Techniques, tapping, dental, anxiety, dental fears, dental anxiety, comprehensive dental care

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