Dental care-related fear and anxiety: Distress tolerance as a possible mechanism

S. H. Addicks, D. W. McNeil, C. L. Randall, A. Goddard, L. M. Romito, C. Sirbu, G. Kaushal, A. Metzger, B. D. Weaver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Distress tolerance, the degree to which one is able to cope with and endure negative emotional states, has been broadly applied to understand and treat a variety of health (including behavioral) problems, but little is known about its role in oral health care and specifically dental care-related fear and anxiety, making it a novel construct in the oral health care literature. This cross-sectional study examined distress tolerance as a possible predictor of dental fear and anxiety among a sample of adults with and without diagnoses of dental phobia, investigated possible differences in levels of distress tolerance between adults with and without dental phobia, and determined possible associations between distress tolerance and fear of pain, anxiety sensitivity, and depression. Using 52 volunteers (n = 31, dental phobia group; n = 21, healthy comparison group), this investigation used selfreport measures of distress tolerance, fear of pain, anxiety sensitivity, dental fear, and depression. The Anxiety Disorders Interview Schedule, a semi-structured interview, was used to assess for dental phobia and other psychological disorders. Distress tolerance significantly predicted dental fear and anxiety, even after controlling for age, sex, fear of pain, anxiety sensitivity, and depression. In addition, the dental phobia group had lower distress tolerance than the healthy comparison group. Distress tolerance was significantly associated with fear of pain, anxiety sensitivity, and depression. Findings indicate that low distress tolerance plays a unique and distinct role as a possible mechanism in the genesis of dental care-related fear and anxiety and phobia and may exacerbate the experience of other states, including fear of pain and anxiety sensitivity. Knowledge Transfer Statement: Results indicate that patients who have a lower ability to tolerate emotional and physical distress may have higher levels of dental care-related fear and anxiety and even dental phobia, as well as associated sequelae (e.g., avoidance of dental care). Treatment of highly fearful dental patients may helpfully include a focus on increasing distress tolerance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)304-311
Number of pages8
JournalJDR Clinical and Translational Research
Volume2
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1 2017

Keywords

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Behavioral science
  • Clinical psychology
  • Dental anxiety
  • Dental fear
  • Phobia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dentistry(all)

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    Addicks, S. H., McNeil, D. W., Randall, C. L., Goddard, A., Romito, L. M., Sirbu, C., Kaushal, G., Metzger, A., & Weaver, B. D. (2017). Dental care-related fear and anxiety: Distress tolerance as a possible mechanism. JDR Clinical and Translational Research, 2(3), 304-311. https://doi.org/10.1177/2380084417691962