Mental imagery in dentistry: Phenomenology and role in dental anxiety.

Mental imagery in dentistry: Phenomenology and role in dental anxiety.

J Anxiety Disord. 2018 Jun 30;58:33-41

Authors: Schneider A, Andrade J, Tanja-Dijkstra K, Moles DR

Dental anxiety is a prevalent problem with marked psychological, physical and public health implications. Based on cognitive theory and evidence, we hypothesized that vivid, sensory image-based cognitions play a role in dental anxiety. A quantitative online survey (N = 306) and qualitative semi-structured interviews (N = 18) found that vivid sensory images were common irrespective of dental anxiety levels, but that their content, associated distress and responses varied. Participants reporting higher anxiety experienced intense and intrusive fear-provoking dental imagery focusing on unpleasant sensations, which were associated with the intrusive recollection of negative past experiences and avoidance of dentistry. Participants with lower anxiety ratings, reported images that were less distressing and centered around reassuring aspects and positive appointment outcomes, potentially acting as protective factors against dental anxiety and facilitating appointment attendance. The inclusion of components aimed at reducing intrusive memories and dental imagery rescripting may help improve interventions for dental anxiety.

PMID: 30025254 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]

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