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Phobia of dentists leads to more decay and tooth loss, new study finds

April 19, 2017

People who have a severe fear of the dentist are more likely to have tooth decay or missing teeth, according to a new study from King's College London.

The study, published today in the British Dental Journal, compared the oral health of people with and without dental phobia. The results showed that people with dental phobia are more likely to have one or more decayed teeth, as well as missing teeth. In addition, the study found that those with dental phobia reported that their quality of life is poor.

In this study, researchers suggest that this could be that because many people with dental phobia avoid seeing a dentist on a regular basis to address preventable oral conditions. The team also found that once a visit has been made, the phobic patient might also prefer a short-term solution, such as extraction, instead of a long-term care plan.

Anxiety about visiting the dentist is common and becomes a phobia when it has a marked impact on someone's well-being. Researchers analysed data from the Adult Dental Health Survey (2009), where out of 10,900 participants, a total of 1,367 (344 men and 1,023 women) were identified as phobic.

"This phobia can have a major impact on a person's quality of life, including on their physiological, psychological, social and emotional wellbeing," said lead author Dr Ellie Heidari from the King's College London Dental Institute.

"Other research has shown that people with dental phobia express negative feelings such as sadness, tiredness, general anxiety and less vitality. An action as simple as smiling will be avoided due to embarrassment of their poor teeth."

"Our study found people with dental phobia tend to experience a range of dental diseases which result from their avoidance of the dentist. Ideally we would want to help them overcome their dental phobia and attend the dentist, but in the interim perhaps we could be helping them to take good care of their teeth themselves," said author Professor Tim Newton from the King's College London Dental Institute.

"By providing these patients with a detailed at home oral healthcare plan, dental practitioners could help reduce acute conditions with preventative care."
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Notes to editors:

About King's College London

King's College London is one of the top 25 universities in the world (2016/17 QS World University Rankings) and among the oldest in England. King's has more than 29,600 students (of whom nearly 11,700 are graduate students) from some 150 countries worldwide, and some 8,000 staff.

King's has an outstanding reputation for world-class teaching and cutting-edge research. In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), eighty-four per cent of research at King's was deemed 'world-leading' or 'internationally excellent' (3* and 4*).

Since our foundation, King's students and staff have dedicated themselves in the service of society. King's will continue to focus on world-leading education, research and service, and will have an increasingly proactive role to play in a more interconnected, complex world. Visit our website to find out more about Vision 2029, King's strategic vision for the next 12 years to 2029, which will be the 200th anniversary of the founding of the university. For further information about King's, please visit the King's in Brief web pages.

The King's College London Dental Institute

King's College London Dental Institute is one of the foremost Dental Schools in the world. Recently ranked fourth in the world in dentistry by the QS World University Rankings 2016, and first in the UK, the Dental Institute aims to maximise impact on health and wellbeing by integrating excellence across four areas:
  • Education / teaching

  • World-class science

  • Clinical approaches

  • Patient care
The Faculty's international reputation attracts students and staff from across the globe. The largest dental academic centre in the UK, they teach over 700 undergraduate students, 140 graduate taught students, 300 distance learning students and 110 graduate research students.

The Dental Institute has over 85 academic staff and is organised into four research divisions: Craniofacial Development & Stem Cell Biology, Mucosal & Salivary Research, Tissue Engineering & Biophotonics and Population & Patient Health. The research divisions complement the teaching and clinical service initiatives.

As well as excellent research facilities the Dental Institute has internationally recognised education programmes. With highly skilled teachers and supervisors, there are exceptional facilities, including access to over 300,000 patients each year across the two world-famous hospitals, Guy's and St Thomas', for hands-on clinical training. They are one of the most comprehensive dental academic health science centres in Europe.

Further details of the Institute may be found on its website: http://www.kcl.ac.uk/dentistry

King's College London

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