Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Health Locus of Control as Predictor of Dental Anxiety: Dental Patients at University College Hospital in Ibadan

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Health Locus of Control as Predictor of Dental Anxiety: Dental Patients at University College Hospital in Ibadan

Article excerpt


Over the last decade, the demand for dental services has increased; mostly due to increased awareness among the public of the consequences of poor dental health. Alongside this increase in demand of dental services, there has been a proportional increase in the number of people who experience symptoms ranging from dislike to phobia regarding dental treatment (Ingersoll, Bowman, Robertson & Walker, 2003). These individuals find dental procedures so distressing that they experience acute anxiety symptoms such as increased sympathetic nervous system output, uneasiness, apprehension, tension from anticipating danger, irritability, and avoidance when in a dental environment (Ingersoll 2003). Despite these gains in awareness of the importance of dental health, anxiety related to the dental environment and to specific dental treatments is a problem suffered by many patients worldwide, and it remains a significant challenge in providing dental care.

Anxiety is a phenomenon that people frequently encounter in their daily life and this can be described as: "the tense, unsettling anticipation of a threatening but vague event; a feeling of uneasy suspense" (Rachman, 2004).

Dental anxiety is defined as a patient's response to the stress that is specific to the dental situation (Corah, Gale & Illig, 2002). Given its high prevalence, Gatchell (2004), indicated that 70 percent of patients visiting the dentist exhibit feelings of apprehension and 15 percent avoid dental visits due to their anxiety. Only a minority of patients claims to have no anxiety in the dental environment (Ingersoll 2003). Dental anxiety is a multidimensional complex phenomenon, and no one single variable can exclusively account for its development. Within several literatures, a number of factors have consistently been linked with a greater incidence of dental anxiety, including: personality characteristics, fear of pain, past traumatic dental experiences, particularly in childhood (conditioning experiences), blood-injury fears (Locker, Shapiro & Liddell, 2006). Hence, this study is designed to examine the influence of health locus of control on anxiety among dental patients.

Similar to studies showing relationship between locus of control with several chronic diseases like diabetes, asthma and cardiovascular diseases, locus of control is also related to dental health (Bowyer, Sutcliffe, Ireland, Lindenmeyer, Gadsby,. Graveney, Sturt & Dale, 2011). However literature search reveals that limited studies have been conducted relating to multidimensional health locus of control, dental health locus of control, dental health values, plaque and gingival health status and oral health related behaviors (Stenstorm, Einarson, Jacobsson, Lindmark, Wenander & Hugoson, 2009).

Dental anxiety has been ranked fifth among commonly feared situations (Sylvester & Oliveau, 2005) and it is also considered the major reason for avoidance of dental care; thus resulting in deterioration of personal oral health. These conditions occur in people of any age and social status, but mostly prevalent among 25-26-year-olds who mostly experience higher dental anxiety than other people (Stenstorm 2009). This can be accounted for by the diverse effects of a number of psychological factors in this age range that can induce dental fear and dental anxiety. Major procedures that are considered to induce anxiety are the local anesthetic injection and teeth drilling (Stenstorm 2009), and consequently it has been shown that between 2.6 percent to 20.4 percent of the general population exhibit dental anxiety (Locker 2006) while approximately 45 million people in the United States are suffering from dental fear (Doebling & Rowe 2000).

This type of phobic or anxious behavior regarding dental practitioners and procedures could have acute consequences for the oral and psychological health of those affected. …

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