Anxiety reduction via brief intervention in dentally anxious patients: a randomized controlled trial

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Aim: To compare the degree of anxiety reduction in dentally anxious patients attending a Dental Access Centre where the dentist did or did not receive the patients’ assessment of dental anxiety.
Methods: Patients attending two Dental Access Centres in England, completed the Modified Dental Anxiety Scale (MDAS). Those that scored high completed a state anxiety questionnaire (STAI-S) and were randomized into three groups (n=182) to test the hypothesis that patients sharing assessment information about their dental anxiety to members of the dental team has beneficial effects on their state anxiety. Group 1 were controls (n=60), Group 2 gave their MDAS to the receptionist who passed it onto the dentist unknown to the patient (n=62) and Group 3 handed their MDAS to the dentist (n=60). After their appointment they repeated the STAI-S.
Results and conclusion: Patients in Group 3 were less anxious (by more than STAI-S 3 scale units) on leaving the surgery than those from the other groups especially if they entered into a discussion with the dentist about their concerns (by more than 5 scale units). Brief assessment of dental anxiety shared by the patient with the dentist collaboratively has the potential to reduce anxiety on completion of the appointment.
Dental anxiety is common, has a multifactorial aetiology, and is far from being homogenous, as individuals seem to differ in the origins, age of onset and manifestations of their dental fears (Locker et al., 2001b); (Milgrom et al., 1988). Previous negative experiences are a major factor in the development of dental anxiety (Kleinknect et al., 1973); (Bernstein et al., 1979); (de Jongh et al., 1995); (Locker et al., 1999); (Ost and Hugdahl, 1985). For some individuals, their fear of dentistry may be associated with concurrent anxiety disorders, or more general psychopathology (Locker, 2003); (Locker et al., 2001a).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108-117
JournalSocial Science and Dentistry
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010


  • Dental anxiety
  • Randomized controlled trial
  • Psychological intervention
  • Modified dental anxiety scale


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