Cognitive, Behavioral and Health Factors That Impact Dental Fear

Cognitive, Behavioral and Health Factors That Impact Dental Fear

Nov 01, 2022

Fear of any kind, including dental phobia or anxiety, can be crippling. The paralyzing effect fear has on an individual is not a good experience. But the sad reality is that scores of people suffer from dental anxiety for some reason or another, so they will not receive the much-needed care our dentist in Calgary, SW offers.

Even though dental fear is a psychological condition that exhibits psychological symptoms, it also has challenging physical health implications. Most people with dental anxiety or phobia have poorer oral health than those without dental fear. If this problem persists, you might need more invasive dental treatment to solve the issues that could have been solved earlier.

Let’s break down some components that make up dental fear.

How Are Fears Acquired?

There are two main ways that fears are acquired.

Through Learning

Under this category, people may acquire fear in one of the following:

  • Direct conditioning where one is exposed to the cues that might lead them to become fearful of the cues
  • Vicarious learning is where one learns fear through observing another’s reactions (social learning)
  • Negative information where someone’s negative beliefs about a certain danger and the expectation of discomfort and threat they will gain from it

Through Nature

This is down to genetics and genetic factors, where certain innate fears tend to come alive as responses to perceived threats or dangers.

The Cognitive Factors That Influence Dental Fear

Many people, including practitioners, often assume that dental fear is primarily a result of trauma. Inasmuch as some people develop dental anxiety because of traumatic experiences, others still have dental anxiety and have never been to our dentist’s office before.

Hence the reason for cognitive factors that may lead to dental fears. Cognitive factors are simply basic processes that affect performance and learning and may include mental processes such as perception, sensation, learning, memory etc.

Therefore, the cognitive factors influencing dental fear include perceptions of uncontrollability, dangerousness, and unpredictability. In other words, how you perceive the dental appointment is a crucial determinant of fear.

At times, you might perceive the dentist to be cold and controlling has a huge psychological impact on someone with dental anxiety.

People sometimes learn to fear the dentist’s chair through indirect sources such as observing another person’s behavior, especially a close relative.

The Behavioral Factors That Influence Dental Fear

Certain behavioral factors influence dental fear. For instance, children with negative emotionality usually become more aggressive if frustrated. On the other hand, shyness sometimes leads to dental fear and behavior management issues.

The Health Factors That Influence Dental Fear

At times people may develop dental anxiety due to certain health factors. Any of the following health issues might influence dental fear:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Generalized anxiety or depression
  • Other traumatic experiences such as abuse
  • A traumatic experience with another healthcare practitioner
  • Anxiety associated with other health conditions such as claustrophobia, agoraphobia or obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Patients with borderline intellectual functioning and mild intellectual disabilities

Determining Your Level of Dental Fear

The level of dental anxiety will vary greatly from patient to patient. Therefore, it is vital to use a standardized method of measuring. We have a dentist for nervous patients who will help you determine the level of your dental fear. Determining the level of your dental fear is done using the following method:

Modified Dental Anxiety Scale (MDAS)

The modified dental anxiety scale has five questions that our dentist can use to measure the degree of dental anxiety. It is a simplified system comprising five questions in five situations: preparing for a dental appointment, waiting in our dentist’s office, sitting in the dental chair, getting ready for dental treatment, etc.

You rate these questions on a five-point scale ranging from not anxious to extremely anxious. The highest possible score is 25. So, if you score 5-9, it indicates low or no dental anxiety, whereas 10-18 suggests moderate anxiety, and 19 and above have severe dental phobia.

You can always contact our dentist for people with anxiety at My Dental Clinic to have a chat about dental anxiety and how you can get help.