According to new research from scientists, patients that are afraid of suffering pain at the hands of the dentist may find that their fear of the pain is actually worse than the pain itself. The findings at Imperial College London may help doctors and dentists to arrange treatment schedules to minimise worry for the patients by getting painful treatments over with faster.
Lead researcher Dr Giles Story said that ‘When people are offered a reward, they prefer to have it as soon as possible, which could be interpreted to mean that we rate future experiences as less important when we’re making decisions.’ He also added that ‘this reasoning would suggest that you would put off unpleasant things to the future as well.’ However, the research revealed that the opposite was actually true; Dr Story explained that ‘If pain can’t be avoided, most people choose to get it out of the way sooner, even if that means the pain is worse.’
The study involved 35 participants choosing between electric shocks of increasing strength, in 71% of tests, people chose to have the more intense pain to start with. The same was found when volunteers had to choose between imaginary dental appointments that had different levels of pain.
Dr Story surmised that ‘The findings would also suggest that deadlines or other ways of making something inevitable is more likely to result in you choosing to get it out of the way, even if it is something you are dreading.’