Purpose: The present study investigated the effects of dental anxiety and dental visits on oral hygiene practices, which included brushing, flossing and amount of time brushing.
Materials and Methods: The study included a dental questionnaire developed to measure aspects of dental visits, oral hygiene and dental anxiety. A demographic questionnaire included questions pertaining to age, ethnicity and citizenship. Participants included 77 undergraduate students attending a diverse southern United States university enrolled in psychology courses.
Results: Linear regression was conducted to explore the association between dental anxiety and oral hygiene practices. Results revealed the model explained a significant proportion of variance in oral hygiene practices, R2 = 0.141, F(1,76) = 12.441, P < 0.001. Specifically, higher dental anxiety was associated with poorer oral hygiene practices. A correlation was conducted to investigate the association between dental visits and oral hygiene practices. Results revealed a correlation between dental visits and brushing r(75) = 0.342, P = 0.002, and flossing frequency r(75) = 0.294, P = 0.009. There was no association between visits to the dentist and time spent brushing teeth.
Conclusion: Results indicate that dental anxiety is associated with oral hygiene practices. Additionally, those who visit the dentist more often have somewhat better oral hygiene practices. The present study indicates that there may be a learned association between dental anxiety and oral hygiene practices. Methods of education can be developed to disassociate anxieties that may inhibit optimum oral hygiene practices. It may also be beneficial for dental professionals to emphasise the value of the amount of time patients spend brushing their teeth.
Keywords: behavioural decision making, dental anxiety, dental visits, learned association, oral hygiene practices