Putting people into categories often makes things easier, even when it comes to understanding ourselves. We love to describe our friends as either introverts or extroverts, type A’s or type B’s, or even as those who are confident or anxious. When using these categories, however, most of us probably wouldn’t include whether or not we’re afraid of the dentist. But as a new study suggests, certain categories may be directly related to this exact metric.
Dental Anxiety and the NEO-FFI Inventory
A team of Spanish researchers recently investigated the relationship between dental anxiety and specific personality traits. They use a scale called the modified dental anxiety scale (MDAS) to track anxiety levels, and a personality inventory system called NEO-FFI to analyze the personality traits of their participants.
According to the NEO-FFI inventory, each personality is made up of five facets: Neuroticism, such as depression and hostility; extraversion, such as warmth and assertiveness; openness, such as fantasy and aesthetics; agreeableness, such as trust and altruism; and conscientiousness, such as order and self-discipline. Results simply measure the levels of each of these traits in any given person taking the assessment.
The results of these two assessments, plus information on whether or not the participant was a “bruxer” (bruxism is the conscious or unconscious grinding or clenching of teeth, and can lead to complications like TMJ), were studied and conclusions were drawn.
All told, more than a third of the participants were bruxers, and those people were significantly more likely to experience dental anxiety in all dental situations, but particularly in teeth scaling and anesthetic injections. While older participants were less likely to suffer from bruxism, those with high neuroticism and extraversion indexes were proportionally more likely to brux.
The key finding of all this research was simple: Bruxism, dental anxiety, and the traits of neuroticism and extraversion were strongly linked.
Dealing With Dental Anxiety
Regardless of why you suffer dental anxiety, it can be incredibly damaging to your oral health. Whether it’s stopping you from making appointments as often as you should, pushing you to avoid necessary procedures, or even just making your dental appointments unpleasant, you shouldn’t have to suffer through fear and stress to maintain your oral health.
Step one to dealing with dental anxiety is communicating with your dentist about the problem. If you’re honest with your dentist about your anxiety, they can help you navigate the oral health landscape without causing yourself stress or panic. Your dentist can change the way your appointments work to facilitate your anxiety, and may even suggest sedation dentistry.
If you live in or around Columbia, South Carolina and want to talk to us about whether sedation dentistry can help you, please call (803) 781-9090 or email Smile Columbia Dentistry today.