West Virginia Psychology Researchers Find Genetic Origin for Dental Fear

Two researchers from West Virginia University discovered that fear of visiting the dentist may spawn from a fear of pain influenced by genetics.

Published online in October by the journal Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology, the study comes from psychology researchers Cameron Randall and Daniel McNeil, PhD. The aims of the study were to find additional evidence about the genetic disposition that causes dental fear and a fear of pain.

The researchers used data from a family-based study out of the Center for Oral Health Research in Appalachia, comprising 732 families and 1,370 participants ages 11-74. The test subjects were given a 20-item survey to measure their psychological responses to dental care and a 9-item questionnaire about fear of pain.

The results showed women reporting higher levels of dental fear and pain. Age had a significant correlation with dental fear. From this group of subjects, a fear of pain was estimated to be 35 percent passed down through generations, while dental fear was 30 percent genetically influenced.

The authors admitted that shared environment could be a variable that inflates the genetic estimates.

The authors hope this research will produce ways to address dental phobia and improve public oral health.

For more information about dental anxiety, go to the ADA’s consumer webpage, MouthHealthy.org.

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