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04-5631-20010: Anxious or Phobic Patients: Best Treatment Practices

Course Abstract:

Contact Hours (CE): The Academy of Dental Learning and OSHA Training, LLC, designates this activity for 4 continuing education credits (4 CEs).
Questions? Contact Us: Phone: 800-522-1207, Fax: 800-886-3009, or Email:
Published: December 2012
Revised: July 2020
Expires June 2023
Pages: 48
Course Instructors: Mary Oeding, R.D.H., M.Ed.
Health Science Editor Megan Wright, RDH, MS
No conflicts of interest are reported by the author or by educational planning committee members.

Educational Objectives:

Upon completion of this course, the student should be able to:

  • Define fear, anxiety, phobia, and pain. Describe how they are related.
  • List some of the methods of assessment of dental fear or phobia.
  • Describe the physiological reactions to fear stimuli.
  • List common reasons for patient's fear of dentistry.
  • List some current methods used by dentists to reduce the anxiety of their patients.
  • Describe the role of the dental staff in reducing patient anxiety.
  • List actions that experts recommend avoiding in order to reduce patient anxiety.
  • Describe ways of teaching the patient to relax during dental treatment.
  • Describe some current methods of anesthesia.
  • List the conditions when is it appropriate to refer the patient to a mental health professional or a dental fears treatment clinic associated with a dental school.

Course Description

Many patients only visit the dentist for emergency situations or when the pain of a dental problem becomes so severe that they can't stand it anymore. Why don't these people seek treatment when they first notice the symptoms? Why aren't they scheduling routine maintenance visits?

Some people can't face dental treatment because it terrifies them. They would rather live with the pain or poor esthetics caused by lack of dental care. A study by Dr. Scott in 1984, shows that dental fear affects as much as eighty percent of the United States population to some degree. Current data shows that up to twenty-percent of those needing dental care avoid the dentist due to fear and anxiety. In fact, dental phobias are one of the most common types of phobias around the world.

According to a research review done by Dr Appukuttan, in Clinical Cosmetic and Investigational Dentistry published online in 2016, “Both dental anxiety and fear evoke physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral responses in an individual. This is a frequently encountered problem in dental offices. Anxiety is often closely linked to painful stimulus and increased pain perception, and thus these patients experience more pain that lasts longer; moreover, they also exaggerate their memory of pain. Treating such anxious patients is stressful for the dentist, due to reduced cooperation, requiring more treatment time and resources, ultimately resulting in an unpleasant experience for both the patient and the dentist. [Dr] Eli, suggested that a strained dentist–patient relationship dominated by severe anxiety resulted in misdiagnosis during vitality testing for endodontic therapy:”

About the Authors

Mary Oeding, RDH, M Ed earned her Bachelor of Science, Dental Hygiene from Marquette University in 1993. Upon graduation she became a licensed Dental Hygienist and worked in various dental offices across the country. Her specialty was working with anxious patients, helping them to develop a better understanding and acceptance of their oral health. After seeing much success with her anxious patients, Ms. Oeding attended Regent University where she earned her Master’s in Education, Adult Distance Learning in 2000. She used her newly mastered skills to share and teach her fellow professionals on how to ease the mind of the anxious patient which in turn leads to a successful dental visit.

Megan Wright, RDH, MS is a continuing education editor and writer as well as a Temp PRN with agencies in the Washington State area. Ms. Wright earned her MS at the UNM and Pierce College of Washington State in 1997 and certification in Utilization of the 970 Diode Laser and Safety in Dentistry in February of 2015. Ms. Wright works to implement Dental Education seminars as a Hospital-Dental Liaison building collaborative, mutual efforts to promote patient wellness between medical practitioners and dentists while prioritizing care for untreated, medially compromised patients.

How to Take This Course

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Contact Hours: 4.00
Price: $40.00

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