Background: With regard to the management of dental anxiety in general dental practice, it has been considered that general dental practitioners (GDPs) are well placed to treat adults with mild forms of dental anxiety. However, little is known about the specific anxiety management techniques being used by GDPs in the UK. Aim To determine the views and experiences of dental practitioners in their current use of anxiety management techniques, their undergraduate and post-graduation training in these techniques and future training needs.
Methods: A postal questionnaire was sent to a sample of GDPs working in the Midlands region (n = 750) in the UK. Dentists were randomly selected using lists provided by the primary care trusts for each locality.
Results: The response rate was 73% (n = 550). Of these, 90 were not included in the final analysis due to exclusion criteria set prior to questionnaire release. This left 460 questionnaires for analysis. Eighty-five percent of respondents agreed that dentists had a responsibility to help dentally anxious patients (n = 391). Dentists were asked their reasons for not using anxiety management techniques in practice. Psychological techniques, sedation (oral, inhalation, or intravenous) and hypnosis were reported as not having been used due to the paucity of time available in practice, a shortage of confidence in using these techniques and the lack of fees available under the NHS regulations. Also, 91% reported feeling stressed when treating anxious patients. When asked about the quality of teaching they had received (undergraduate and postgraduate), 65% considered that the teaching was less than adequate in the use of psychological methods, whereas 44% indicated that they would be interested in further training in psychological methods if financial support was available.
Conclusion: The need for further training in managing the dentally anxious patient is supported by dentists' lack of confidence and inadequate training in treating such patients, as determined from the results of a postal questionnaire to UK GDPs.