University of SydneyMonday 12 March 2012, 10:54AM
Media release from University of Sydney
Women in their forties are more likely to have dental anxiety than
any other age group according to a University of Sydney study into
dental anxiety and phobia.
The case-control study, now entering its fifth year, aims to help
improve dental management for patients with dental fear, dental
anxiety and dental phobia. It has found women in this age
group are most likely to have perceived a traumatic dental
experience, abuse, trauma and oro-facial trauma. They are also more
likely to have higher levels of depression, general anxiety or
suffer from stress. Character traits of perceiving pain in alarmist
ways (catastrophising responses) and poor coping with pain
have strong correlation with dental anxiety.
University of Sydney faculty of dentistry Special Needs Dentist, Dr
Avanti Kavre, who is co-ordinator of the study, admits that
for some the very mention of the word dentist can evoke an
instantaneous response of dread.
"Dental anxiety is very real and complex and it should never be
downplayed," says Dr Avanti Karve.
"To date despite all the advances in the dental field, dental fear
is reported in up to forty per cent of the western population. A
recent national telephone survey found that a person with severe
dental anxiety waits on average 17 days to make an appointment when
in severe pain, as opposed to three days in the remaining
According to Dr Karve the key to alleviating and managing this fear
is to take the focus away from our teeth, and review the whole
For the last five years, Dr Karve has been coordinator of the
Dental Phobia Clinic at the Westmead Centre for Oral Health where
the clinical team's approach includes a dietician, psychologist,
sedationist and anaesthetist.
"At the centre we work with each patient to explore the history of
their anxiety, identify specific triggers, and attempt to provide
each individual with coping skills to manage their fear. We also
look at underlying factors of dental disease and poor general
health, and aim to improve diet and lifestyle factors. In fact our
first consultations at the Phobia Clinic are not even conducted in
a dental chair, " Dr Karve says.
Dean of the University of Sydney's faculty of dentistry Professor
Chris Peck says regular visits to your dentist are part of a good
oral health strategy where the focus can be on prevention rather
than surgical intervention.
This will of course help allay any fear related to visiting your
dentist, Professor Peck says.
"More and more, medical research is linking poor oral health with
conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, nutritional
deficiencies and obesity so it is important that we feel
comfortable visiting our dentists. Going forward, we want to
investigate the relationship between pain perception, pain coping
and dental anxiety, and measure the success of pharmacological and
non-pharmacological treatment approaches" Professor Peck