Differential Psychological Factors Associated With Unnecessary Dental Avoidance and Attendance Behavior During the Early COVID-19 Epidemic

Frontiers in Psychology 12 (2021)
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Abstract

The coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 is challenging the dental community to an unprecedented degree. Knowledge of the increased risk of infection in dental settings has been disseminated to the public and guidelines have been formulated to assist dental attendance decision-making. However, dental attendance behaviors incompatible with treatment need is not uncommon in clinical settings. Important gaps remain in the knowledge about how psychological factors are affecting dental attendance behaviors during the COVID-19 epidemic. In this cross-sectional study, a questionnaire survey was performed during February and March 2020. A total of 342 and 294 dental patients who attended and avoided dental visits, respectively, were included. The participants were classified into four groups based on dental attendance behavior and emergent/urgent dental treatment need. Bivariate analysis was performed to investigate factors associated with dental attendance. Multivariable logistic regression based on principal component scores was performed to identify major psychological constructs associated with unnecessary dental avoidance and attendance. Among all the factors explored, inability to wear masks during dental treatment was most closely associated with the overall pattern of dental attendance among participants. Multivariable regression suggested that unnecessary dental avoidance was associated with perceived risk of infection in general and in dental settings, perceived impact of COVID-19 and dental problems on general health, and personal traits such as trust and anxiety. Unnecessary dental attendance was associated with optimism toward the epidemic and trust. Multidisciplinary efforts involving dental and medical professionals as well as psychologists are warranted to promote more widespread adoption, among the general public, of dental attendance behaviors compatible with dental treatment need during the COVID-19 epidemic.

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