1412 Beliefs and Fears about Dental Care in an Emergency Clinic

Saturday, March 24, 2012: 9:45 a.m. - 11 a.m.
Presentation Type: Poster Session
C.L. RANDALL, Psychology, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV, D.W. MCNEIL, Dental Practice and Rural Health, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV, and R.N. STUCHELL, School of Dentistry, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV
Objectives: Psychosocial factors such as fear and negative beliefs about the dentist have been implicated in avoidance of dental visits (e.g., Doerr et al., 1998; Moore et al., 1996).  Fear has been associated with symptomatic treatment-seeking behavior, often driven by a need to relieve pain (Armfield, Stewart, & Spencer, 2007).  This study aimed to examine the relation between dental care-related fears, dental beliefs, and fear of pain in a rural, Appalachian population and to determine the impact of dental care-related fear on reasons for dental visits.  Methods: Patients (n = 66) of a university emergency dental clinic (50% female; mean age = 35.4 years, SD = 15.1) completed the Dental Fear Survey (DFS), Dental Beliefs Scale (DBS), and Fear of Pain Questionnaire (FPQ) in addition to a demographic questionnaire.  Results: Dental fear was associated with negative attitudes regarding dentists/dental treatment and with fear of pain; DFS scores were positively correlated with DBS scores, r(65) = .67, p < .001, and FPQ scores r(65) = .52, p < .001.  Surprisingly, DFS, DBS, and FPQ scores were not associated with amount of time since last dental visit for this sample.  However, for participants reporting higher levels of dental fear, 74% indicated that “pain” was the reason they typically visited the dentist, while 51% of patients reporting lower levels of dental fear indicated that “pain” was the reason.  Conclusions: In an Appalachian emergency dental clinic, where patients receive symptomatic care, greater dental fear is associated with more negative beliefs about the dentist and fear of pain.  Additionally, pain appears to be a motivating factor for clinic visits more often for dentally fearful patients than for those not as fearful.  Future research with this population should address how dental care-related fears, dental beliefs, and fear of pain impact symptomatic treatment-seeking behavior over the long-term.

Keywords: Anxiety, Pain, Psychology and Utilization/demand
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