The Effect of Affect on Memory of Pain Induced by Tooth Restoration

Int Dent J. 2014 Oct;64(5):246-51. doi: 10.1111/idj.12115. Epub 2014 May 26.


Objective: Memories of dental pain may influence both subsequent pain experiences during dental treatment and future decisions about whether to go to a dentist. The main aims of this study were to assess memory of pain and pain-related affect induced by tooth restoration.

Methods: A total of 39 women who underwent tooth restoration rated their state anxiety before dental treatment, and the intensity and unpleasantness of pain and the emotions they felt immediately after dental treatment. Either 3 months or 6 months later, the participants were asked to recall their state anxiety, the intensity and unpleasantness of pain and the emotions they had felt.

Results: Regardless of the length of recall delay, participants accurately remembered both pain intensity and unpleasantness. Although the state anxiety felt before the pain experience was found to be remembered accurately, the positive affect that accompanied pain was underestimated and the negative affect that accompanied pain was overestimated. Positive affect experienced, state anxiety experienced and recalled state anxiety accounted for 32% and 30%, respectively, of the total variance in recalled intensity and unpleasantness of pain.

Conclusion: It is concluded that although dental pain is remembered accurately, affective variables, rather than experienced pain, have an effect on memory of pain.

Keywords: Dental pain; memory of affect; memory of pain; positive affect; state anxiety.

MeSH terms

  • Dental Anxiety / psychology*
  • Dental Restoration, Permanent*
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mental Recall*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Time Factors