Patients with Dental Phobias Only Get Basic Care

Dentistry Today


Patients who suffer from dental phobias, who constitute more than 11% of the population, experience poorer health and may only receive basic dental care, according to researchers at the King’s College London Dental Institute. Previous research has associated greater dental anxiety with more decayed or missing teeth and fewer filled teeth.

Patients who are afraid of visiting the dentist usually only get simple treatment such as amalgam and tooth colored fillings, scaling, and extractions. More complex treatment such as molar endodontics, crowns and bridges, and dental implants are either never provided or referred to a specialist clinic, the researchers report.

When these patients do visit the dentist, the researchers report, they are more likely to present with advanced disease. This factor and certain healthcare policies and lack of funding might limit dental treatment options for these patients. There also is inconsistent provision of conscious sedation services for people with dental phobia, which can lead to limited access and difficulty in addressing these patients’ needs as well. 

The researchers recommend psychological therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, that have the potential to enable individuals to overcome their dental phobia and attend primary care where they will have access to a fuller range of dental treatments. Time, training, and support for dentists to provide certain aspects of complex care for patients under conscious sedation is another possible solution, the researchers said. 

The study, “Survey of Treatment Policies Under Conscious Sedation at Centres Dealing with People with High Levels of Dental Anxiety Across the United Kingdom,” was published by the British Dental Journal.

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