For many patients a bad experience at the dentist can leave them with a life-long phobia which could result in avoidance of check-ups for many years. Anxiety about visiting the dentist is common and becomes a phobia when it has a marked impact on someone’s well-being; people with dental phobias typically avoid going to the dentist and end up experiencing more dental pain, poorer oral health and a detrimental effect on their quality of life.
In recent years researchers at King’s set out to discover more about dental phobia. By analysing data from a national survey, they found that 1 in 10 adults in the United Kingdom were so scared of going to the dentist that they could be called ‘phobic’. They also found that those with dental phobia experienced both short-term and long-term problems in their everyday life – for example pain, difficulty eating and embarrassment about the appearance of their teeth.
The team were interested in why people with dental phobia experience more dental disease than those who are less fearful of visiting a dentist. In a study published in the British Dental Journal, they set out to test whether the presence of dental phobia modifies the proposed care plan for a patient, compared to a similar non-phobic patient.
The results found that treatment plans offered were influenced by the patients’ dental needs, and not the presence of absence of dental phobia. It highlighted that it is still important to consider patients’ anxiety and its management in the treatment plan to ensure the best possible care options are available.