The dread many feel about going to the dentist can result in serious health consequences.”As long as anxiety is greater than pain, you see avoidance,” said Marisol Tellez Merchán, associate professor at Temple University’s Kornberg School of Dentistry and residency director of Dental Public Health. “Avoiding dental care leads to delayed treatments, which are typically more invasive. Our aim is to reduce anxiety so patients can get the care they need.”
A collaboration between Temple University’s dentistry and psychology researchers is showing promising results in the battle against dental anxiety, as evidenced by a $2.59 million award from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, a branch of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
This is the largest NIH grant ever received by the Kornberg School of Dentistry and the latest in a series of multimillion-dollar grants awarded to the Psychology Department of Temple’s College of Liberal Arts. It will fund a five-year clinical trial for 450 patients at Temple’s Faculty Dental Practice in North Philadelphia.
Tellez Merchán’s dentistry expertise is coupled with the clinical psychology expertise of research collaborator, Richard G. Heimberg, the Thaddeus L. Bolton Professor of Psychology in Temple University’s College of Liberal Arts. He runs the Adult Anxiety Clinic of Temple, which most frequently focuses on the treatment of social anxiety and general anxiety.
Dental anxiety, however, seemed like a subject better managed in the dental environment than a psychologist’s office.
“Prior to our work, psychology and dentistry didn’t have much of a history together,” said Heimberg, who credits Amid I. Ismail—dean and Laura H. Carnell Professor in the Kornberg School of Dentistry—with introducing him and Tellez Merchán and supporting their work together.
“We wanted to pursue whether it’s possible to put a psychologist’s tool in the hands of dental assistants,” Heimberg said.
The tool he and Tellez Merchán …