Dental Fear and Anxiety

Eating disorders increase anxiety levels.

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
January/February 2012 Volume 23, Number 1
©2012 Gürze Books

Few people look forward to a visit to the dentist’s office, but patients with eating disorders facing oral surgery apparently have much higher-than-normal anxiety and fear about dental work, according to a recent Turkish study by Yigit Sirin and co-workers in the Department of Oral Surgery at Istanbul University (J Oral Maxillofac Surg 2011; 8:2078).

Dr. Sirin and colleagues studied 61 patients with eating disorders and an identical number of age-, gender-, and education-matched healthy controls and 2 consecutive randomly selected clinical and nonclinical samples of 220 females, all of whom took the Modified Dental Anxiety Scale (MDAS) and Dental Fear Survey (DFS) before surgery.

The mean scores of the MDAS and DFS for the study population correlatively negatively with age and positively with a previous unpleasant visit related to dentistry. Patients with eating disorders had significantly greater mean scores on the MDAS than the clinical and nonclinical group. A significant different was found in the DFS subscale of “fear of specific situations and stimuli” compared with the healthy matched controls and clinical and nonclinical subjects.

The authors concluded that patients with eating disorders can be more sensitive to the auditory, visual, and contact stimuli of oral surgery under local anesthesia. They also had higher levels of dental fear and anxiety than routine clinical patients and randomly selected subjects from a nonclinical environment. It’s also conceivable that at least some of their increased fear was related to more extensive eating disorders-associated dental pathology. As a result they may have been anticipating more extensive dental repair work than those in the comparison groups.

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