Dentistry student completing examination.

About the project

AngST is a collaboration between researchers in dentistry, medical simulation, and art and media technology at the University. The project started out in response to a set of video recordings of dental treatments that had been made for a previous piece of research in dentistry that used video ethnography. Our team, who had collaborated on medical simulation projects before, were curious about what this footage could tell them about creating simulated experiences that could help to train dentists. We were particularly interested about what the recordings could tell us about patient anxiety, particularly the things we could detect that would allow us to predict how anxious people were feeling.
Our team, which included film makers and film historians, were interested in how the recordings could be read using the skills of a film maker. We were interested in what can and can’t be read from a recording, and what dentists can and can’t read in their patients, and we did a pilot study that explored how the footage could be looked at from the perspective of anxiety.
Anxiety is a big problem for dentistry. Of course, it is quite understandable that we might feel uncomfortable when having dental treatment, but research has shown that anxious feelings about the dentist can not only stop people going for the treatment they need, but also seems to discourage them from caring for their dental health the rest of the time. From a dentist’s perspective, anxiety is also a big issue, dentists report a lot of anxiety themselves, particularly during their training period which can cause a lot of stress. Additionally, anxious patients can sometimes cause difficulties for dentists because they can sometimes move and react unexpectedly. So, there is lots to be gained from understanding and knowing how to recognise and reduce anxious feelings.


What we noticed when looking at the video footage of the dental treatments was how rich the information was, and we started to think about how video footage could offer a resource for thinking about and exploring anxiety as an ecology. What this means is that we are thinking about anxiety from the perspective that it is part of a complex system, something more like a living system in which networks of factors influence one another, in a way that is dynamic and difficult to predict. Recently researchers have become increasingly aware (and vocal about) the importance of spaces for healthcare and the way in which those spaces make us feel – and how our feelings in those spaces change them – think of ‘dental green’ which was a perfectly nice green before it became associated with dentistry, or fake banana tasting medicine. This can help us to think about and express the complex experiences of healthcare treatment, which we need a particular kind of language or sensitivity to describe – for example the feeling or atmosphere of a place.
Our project will invite dentists and their patients to record dental sessions so that we can explore these complex dimensions of dental practice and debrief in about their experiences in a conversation with a researcher.


The project started with a seeds funding from Plymouth Institute of Health and Care Research (PIHR) to support art-health collaboration, and we recently received funding from the Medical Protection Society Foundation (MPS) for the next stage of the study. We are currently recruiting dental practices who would like to help. We will be recording a data set of dental treatments and asking dentists and patients to comment on them for us following the treatments to create a rich image of the experience of dental treatment.
If you are interested in the project, please visit us again when we start recruitment.

Research team

The AngST team have been collaborators for some time now.