Thursday, 4 May 2006
Afraid of going to the dentist? A new study by University of Adelaide researchers has found that you are not alone - particularly if you are a middle-aged female with a family income of less than $40,000 and have lost a few teeth over the years.
Lead researcher Jason Armfield, PhD student in the University of Adelaide's School of Dentistry and Research Officer with the University's Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health, found more than one in three such women aged between 40 and 64 have a high level of fear about visiting the dentist.
The study, involving a telephone interview of more than 7,300 Australians aged five years and over, showed a high fear level in 16.1% of those surveyed.
Adults aged 40-64 years were most fearful with those aged 80 and over having the lowest prevalence of high fear. A higher percentage of females than males reported high fear (21% against 12%) and the survey showed a clear relationship between the time since the last visit to the dentist and high levels of fear (14.2% for those people who visited in the previous 12 months to 31% for those who hadn't been to the dentist for more than 10 years).
Mr Armfield also found a consistent relationship between higher household income and less dental fear. Almost 20% of people from households with a combined income of up to $40,000 had high levels of fear compared to only 13.5% of people with household incomes of more than $80,000.
"These findings have clinical implications for oral health professionals in terms of identifying patient fear and treatments used," he said.
"There needs to be awareness by the dentist of this reasonably high level of fear in the population. For example, 40-64-year-old women on lower incomes make up a very common group of dental service users.
There needs to be continued vigilance and awareness by dentists of the high levels of dental fear likely in the patient population and the possible ramifications of that fear on both patient management and on their patients' oral health."
Mr Armfield's findings were recently published in the Australian Dental Journal. His research supervisor and co-author of the paper is Professor John Spencer, who is Director of the Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health and Professor of Social and Preventative Dentistry.