Research indicates that between 36-40% of people are afraid to visit the dentist, 20%
are highly anxious and 5% avoid dental treatments due to severe anxiety (Lindsay &
Jackson, 1993). Dental anxiety is known to be a major barrier to optimal health care
with individuals fearful of impending invasive procedures often presenting only when
in severe pain. Dental anxiety has been found to be based on past memories of
experiences of pain and loss of control in the dental setting.
Evidence from the literature suggests that some individuals with dental anxiety also
present with additional psychological problems, such as panic disorder. De Jongh,
Muris, ter Horst and Duyx (1995) also reported that individuals with dental anxiety
also exhibited more catastrophizing thoughts related to dental treatment. A recent
study by De Jongh, Aartman & Brand (manuscript submitted for publication) reported
that intrusive memories of past distressing dental experiences were associated with
trauma-related symptoms. However no structured assessment for Post-Traumatic
Stress Disorder (PTSD) was carried out.
This study aimed to identify the association between intrusive memories related to
dental experiences and trauma-related symptomatology and to investigate differences
in psychopathology and frequency of thought content in individuals presenting with
and without intrusive memories. The proportion of individuals with intrusive
memories who would meet criteria for PTSD was also investigated. Results will be
given and conclusions reached.