Dental Anxiety Exaggerates Memories

People with high dental fear have exaggerated memories of the fear and pain they feel during treatment, a study says.

Researchers at the University of West Virginia did the study. They surveyed 79 people who needed an emergency tooth extraction at the oral surgery clinic. People were asked about their fear and pain before the extraction, during it and two weeks later.

Before having the tooth pulled, highly anxious people expected to feel more pain than those with low anxiety did.

Two weeks later, everyone in the study exaggerated how much pain they had felt during treatment, even subjects who did not report that they were anxious about the treatment. That is, they recalled feeling more pain during treatment than they said they did at the time. People with high levels of dental anxiety also recalled feeling more anxious than they said they were at the time.

The authors suggest that controlling anxiety levels before treatment may be helpful. This can be done with medications or behavioral strategies.

The study appears in the December 13 issue of the Journal of Dental Research.


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