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Experts in dentistry and filmmaking will be working in tandem to find ways of supporting patients who suffer from extreme anxiety when visiting the dentist.
The University of Plymouth has been awarded funding by the MPS Foundation to assess and then develop ways to manage dental anxiety.
They will also look to establish a novel approach to detecting subtle signs or “tells” of anxiety in the dental clinic by building a partnership between patients, clinicians, filmmakers, ethnographers, researchers, and the public.
The AngST project builds on a decade of work by researchers from the University’s Transtechnology Research Group and colleagues at the South Devon and Torbay NHS Hospital Trust.
It will see a pilot study conducted using video recordings of dental treatment, which will be used to analyse patients’ emotional experiences during dental visits.
A methodology for filming in the dental clinic will be refined and documented and used to produce a toolkit for reflexive training of dental clinicians that can be used beyond dental practice.
This will enable the researchers to design and pilot a training model that will enhance the ability of junior dentists, clinical staff, and patients themselves to be sensitive to the emergence of anxiety in the dental clinic.
The ultimate aim of the project will be to encourage all the parties to respond in a way that helps to reduce anxiety, and thereby improves the provision and take-up of dental care and the wellbeing of dentists.
Professor Mona Nasser, Professor in Clinical Epidemiology and Oral Health Research, is leading the AngST project which will also lead to the creation of a lab at the University that will be used specifically for this research. She said:
“With the dental profession under more pressure than ever, this project could not be more timely. For many people, just the thought of going to the dentist evokes all manner of anxieties that they choose to avoid. That can lead to dental issues going unmanaged, and ultimately results in a number of wider health complications. It is therefore essential for us to find better ways of managing people’s anxieties, and give clinicians and patients themselves the tools to manage them.”
Mona Nasser screenshot
Professor Mona Nasser
The project is one of ten awarded funding in the first research grant programme of the MPS Foundation. Medical Protection Society (MPS) – of which Dental Protection is part – launched the MPS Foundation last year with the aim to create sustainable global change through ambitious research focussed on patient safety and the wellbeing of healthcare professionals and teams.
Dr Graham Stokes, dentist and MPS Foundation Chair, said:
“Dentists face the challenging task of responding to their patients’ anxieties while being under serious pressure themselves. In the case of newly qualified dentists, they are possibly also anxious about ensuring they provide their patients with a high level of care. Current ways to help anxiety are only moderately effective, and few have been developed together with patients or clinicians. Until now, funding for critical research like this has been limited, but is now taking place through the MPS Foundation. As a global not-for-profit research initiative, we aim to take non-clinical research in a new direction and transform the future of patient safety.”

Plymouth Institute of Health and Care Research

The Plymouth Institute of Health and Care Research (PIHR) is a thriving community that conducts adventurous world-leading research with the explicit purpose of improving the health and care of the populations we serve. 
Our work is grounded in the needs of the people of the South West and other rural, coastal, and deprived communities worldwide, but PIHR’s research has national and international reach and impact. 
Find out more about the work of PIHR
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Transtechnology research

Transtechnology Research is a transdisciplinary research group situated in the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business. Its constituency is drawn from historians, philosophers, anthropologists, artists and designers, and is led from a historical and theoretical perspective, with the objective of understanding science and technology as a manifestation of a range of human desires and cultural imperatives. 

Its overarching research project concerns the historical and philosophical aspects of science and technology and the popular arts. 
Transtechnology research

Faculty of Health

Exceptional clinical and academic learning, social engagement and research in medicine, dentistry, nursing, psychology and health professions.
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