MPS Foundation funds major study into dental patients’ anxiety triggers


  Posted by: Dental Design      25th April 2023

The MPS Foundation is funding research which aims to develop interventions for patients who suffer from extreme anxiety when visiting the dentist.

The AngST project will see experts in dentistry and filmmaking at the University of Plymouth working in tandem to assess and then develop ways to manage dental anxiety. It will also offer 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 project is one of ten awarded funding, out of over 150 expressions of interest received, 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.

The task 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.

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.”

Professor Mona Nasser, Professor in Clinical Epidemiology and Oral Health Research at the University of Plymouth, is leading the AngST project. 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.”

The second MPS Foundation grant application window is open. Calls for expressions of interest close on 5 May 2023. Healthcare professionals can register their interest by visiting and entering their details via the online grant portal.

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