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Attention Disorder Ups Chances of Dental Fear
May 22, 2013

By Nancy Volkers
InteliHealth News Service

INTELIHEALTH - Adults with dental fear are more likely than other adults to have an attention disorder, according to a screening test. These adults have higher levels of dental fear. They also report having poorer oral health.

Swedish researchers screened 110 adults for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). All of the adults were visiting a clinic that specialized in the treatment of dental fear.

Of the adults, 16% scored high enough on the screening to be diagnosed with ADHD. That group had higher levels of dental fear than the rest of the people in the study did.

In this study, dental fear was measured using a standard survey. Scores range from 20 to 100. A score of 60 or above indicates dental anxiety. The ADHD group scored an average of 82.8 on the survey. The non-ADHD group scored an average of 73.6.

People screened as having ADHD also were more likely than the rest of the group to say they had poor oral health.

Self-reported oral health information was collected using a scale of 0 to 100. On this scale, 0 was the "worst possible" oral health and 100 was the "best possible." In the ADHD group, the average score was 11.9. In the non-ADHD group, it was 26.0.

In the study group as a whole, 19% reported receiving regular dental care. Another 19% reported getting dental care from time to time. The other 63% went to the dentist only for an emergency, or never went.

Adult ADHD affects between 1.2% and 7.3% of the population. In this study, 16% were identified as having ADHD. This suggests that people referred for treatment for dental anxiety are more likely to have ADHD.

Most adults with ADHD are not being treated for it. Many also have other conditions. For example, a study done in the United States found that 38% of people with adult ADHD also had enough symptoms to be diagnosed with a mood disorder. Also, 47% had symptoms of an anxiety disorder and 15% had symptoms of a substance use disorder.

In the general population, up to 7% of adults have severe dental anxiety. Studies have found that some children with ADHD also have dental anxiety. But until now, no study focused on ADHD and dental fear in adults.

The researchers note that because this study was small, they cannot draw solid conclusions. They suggest larger studies be done to see if the results are similar.

The study appears in the June issue of the European Journal of Oral Sciences.

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