This is a new collaboration for the West Virginia Clinical and Translational Science Institute and the Indiana Clinical and Translational Science Institute, which have been awarded $50,000 for the joint partnership pilot project.
Funding will support the design of a clinical trial focused on using a combination of psychologically based exposure therapy and a medication, D-cycloserine, that enhances learning to reduce the fear experienced by some patients when visiting the dentist, according to WVU.
Dental avoidance is a major public health problem in West Virginia and elsewhere, with 5% to 10% of the population avoiding dental care due to fear and another 30% who suffer from significant anxieties when undergoing dental procedures, according to Daniel McNeil, PhD, co-principal investigator.
WVU has strengths in behavioral dentistry to deal with the problem of dental phobia and avoidance while Indiana brings strengths in genomics and prior studies with D-cycloserine in the treatment of social phobia, McNeil noted.
The research will include patients who have avoided dental care for more than two years, allowing them to gradually experience dental care again, first through exposure to films of dental treatment and then with actual dental care, while prescribed D-cycloserine, to help extinguish prior learned fear behavior.
The medication, D-cycloserine, has previously been used in treatments for height, social, and spider phobias. If researchers can prove that it will help with dental phobia, they will be able to begin to help alleviate the major public health problem of avoidance of dental care due to fear.
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