Dental services are expanding in China, yet there is little evidence available on the dental-related psychological factors contributing to the uptake of dental services. Our study explored whether beliefs, anxiety, and cognitions significantly differ across different levels of attendance, and whether dental-related psychological variables can independently predict dental attendance in Chinese adults. We also explored the extent to which cognitions and beliefs relate to attendance as a function of dental anxiety.
In our cross-sectional study 480 adult participants in China completed a questionnaire including dental attendance and measures of dental-related psychological variables (dental cognitions, beliefs, anxiety, and fear of dental pain).
Only 25.8% of participants visited the dentist regularly. There was a significant difference for all dental-related psychological variables (p < 0.001), across all three levels of dental attendance (never; irregularly or regularly attend). Thus, fear of dental pain and dental anxiety are higher, and cognitions and beliefs are more negative, for those who have less favorable dental service utilization. All these variables, except fear of dental pain, were also independent predictors of dental attendance (p < 0.05). Moreover, how individuals think, and what they believe, about the dentist (and the dental context) were only partially explained through dental anxiety. Thus, beliefs (β = 0.579, SE = 0.035, p < 0.001) and cognitions (β = 0.594, SE = 0.045, p < 0.001) are impacting on dental attendance, mostly independent of whether the individual is anxious.
Our preliminary findings show dental-related psychological factors are related to dental attendance and these should be explored further in a larger sample.

© 2021 American Association of Public Health Dentistry.