Dental anxiety prevents many patients from making the appointments that will give them the care they need. But the Foundation for Effective Management of Dental Anxiety (FEMDA) has successfully bid to trial and develop the Dental Anxiety Management System, where patients from participating dental practices can access clinically designed apps that assess and help manage their nervousness.
Led by Dr. Angus MacDougall, FEMDA is the first organization to receive funding from the E-health Productivity and Innovation in Cornwall and the Isles of Sicily (EPIC) project, where health and social care professionals, academic, and companies in the region are collaborating to help find the best uses of the internet, apps, and robotics in health and social care.
The £600,000 EPIC Challenge Fund is managed by Creative England and is open to small and medium-sized enterprises operating in the region looking to engage in the digital health market. It is funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the South West Academic Health Science Network.
The funding offers feasibility grants of up to £5,000 and product development grants from £5,000 to £10,000 to businesses that aim to tackle the challenges identified by research led by the University of Plymouth. Solutions can be co-designed or individual. About 10 million adults in the United Kingdom have dental anxiety, and two-thirds of adults are scared of visiting the dentists, which can lead to further problems in clinical care.
“If someone is scared of visiting the dentist, they delay or avoid appointments, which makes any potential underlying problems worse. And when problems are worse, treatments can be more invasive, which in turn can heighten anxiety. It’s a vicious circle,” said MacDougall.
“Most treatment for dental fear is focused on the use of general anesthetic or sedation, but only behavioral and psychological interventions provide long-term solutions,” MacDougall said. “Through collaboration with professor Tim Newton, consultant of psychology as applied to dentistry at Kings College Dental Institute, whose work focuses in this area, FEMDA was born.”
The Dental Anxiety Management System is a progressive web app that patients download. It assesses their dental anxiety and specific dental cognitions before offering them a self-help report based on their anxiety level. The data is then fed back to a central dashboard for the practice that shows the overall level of dental anxiety and, where patients have given their permission, gives patient-specific dental anxiety scores.
“It’s fantastic that the FEMDA team has successfully applied for a grant from the Challenge Fund, and it’s great that such an innovative idea emerged from one of our initial project workshops and will be trialed and hopefully eventually used in Cornwall and beyond,” said Ray Jones, PhD, EPIC project director.
“That’s exactly what EPIC is trying to achieve, connecting people from the health and social care community with local technology companies and entrepreneurs to find innovative ways of using technologies to best improve health and social care outcomes as well as develop the e-health business sector in Cornwall,” Jones said.