Improving Clinical Practice: What Dentists Need to Know about the Association between Dental Fear and a History of Sexual Violence Victimisation
BACKGROUND Adults who experienced childhood sexual abuse frequently find dental treatment difficult to tolerate. Increased understanding of common long-term effects of this trauma may help dental professionals to respond more sensitively to patients who have experienced it. METHODS The authors recruited 58 men and 19 women with self-reported histories of childhood sexual abuse from social agencies serving this population and interviewed the participants about their experiences with health care professionals, including dentists. The authors analyzed interview transcripts using the constant comparative method to identify main themes and patterns. RESULTS Participants reported aspects of dental treatment that can be particularly difficult for them and offered ideas about how dental health professionals could make the experience more tolerable for them. The data analysis produced suggestions about how dentists might respond sensitively to patients who frequently cancel appointments, are distressed by certain body positions, need a sense of control and fear judgment. The authors also report participants' thoughts about questions from dental practitioners regarding a history of childhood sexual abuse. CONCLUSIONS Adults who report a history of childhood sexual abuse are more likely to experience dental treatment more positively when dental professionals have some understanding of the long-term effects of such abuse, including how it can affect dental treatment interactions. Such knowledge enables dental professioinals to respond to their needs in a sensitive manner.