The review evaluates the contribution which behaviour modification has made to the outstanding behavioural problems in dentistry: the treatment and management of the fear of routine conservation; the prevention of tooth and gum disease; the management of acute operative pain and chronic facial pain.
Investigations of dental fear and operative pain have been limited perhaps too much to patients, especially children, who attend for dental treatment. Behaviour modification has yet to help adequately those patients who avoid dentists and who may be the most acutely afraid and the most intolerant of dentistry. More adequate contributions here could be made if behavioural sciences were much more satisfactorily taught in dental undergraduate and postgraduate curricula than at present.
Useful contributions to preventive dentistry have already been made. The successful treatment of chronic facial pain will have to depend, at least in part, on a more adequate understanding of the psychophysiological mechanisms of the complaint. The nature of the placebo effect in treatment here also needs to be more thoroughly understood.