Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences

The role of negative and positive memories in fear of dental treatment

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  • Søren Risløv Staugaard
  • Marit Jøssing, Odder Kommunale Tandpleje, Denmark
  • Christina Krohn, Odder Kommunale Tandpleje, Denmark

Most young adults transition from childhood dental care to adult dental care without problems. However, a substantial minority leaves childhood dental care with considerable fear of dental treatment. In the present study, we hypothesized that fear of dental treatment in the young adult is influenced by memories of positive and negative childhood experiences with dental care. More specifically, we predicted that the emotional impact, sense of reliving, rehearsal, and belief in the accuracy of a negative treatment memory would be associated with increased dental fear, while positive treatment memories would show the opposite relation.

One hundred thirty-six young adults leaving childhood dental care responded to a online measures of dental fear, the most negative and most positive memory of dental treatment, and symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder.

Negative memories of events that involved pain and dentist behaviors such as impatience or scolding were frequently described and significantly associated with dental fear and symptoms of posttraumatic stress. Positive memories were more frequent, but did not show a consistent relationship with dental fear.

The importance of negative memories suggests an avenue for intervention against dental fear that focuses on restructuring those memories to emphasize positive aspects.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Public Health Dentistry
Pages (from-to)39-46
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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