People who have a phobia of going to visit their dentist have been given fresh hope of overcoming their fear, according to new research.
A study - published in December's edition of the European Journal of Oral Sciences - has claimed that the issue can be resolved by encouraging the patient to take part in a particular type of eye movement therapy.
This approach has apparently allowed some participants to attend appointments at their dental practice for the first time in years.
The eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy sees people asked to recall traumatic events from their past as they rapidly move their eyes. It was developed by the US psychologist Francine Shapiro in the 1980s and has also been used to help those who suffer from other forms of anxiety or stress.
As part of the study, 16 people who suffered from dental phobia took part in three EMDR sessions - with each one lasting 90 minutes. It was reported that, following the therapies, their fear of the dentist was rapidly reduced.
Their reactions were not only measured by their attitude but also by their actions. Three months after undergoing EMDR, three-quarters of the participants had actually paid a visit to their dental practice. Before the treatment, the average time that they had spent avoiding the dentist was around four years.
People who suffer from such phobias have long been the subject of interest from researchers. In October, the Adult Dental Health Survey reported that around half of the 30 million people who attend appointments are "moderately to extremely afraid".
Both men and women were found to be equally afraid, although it was also revealed that females were much less likely to be able to hide their emotions when it came to actually sitting in the dentist's chair.