UIAM Way Of Reducing Dental Treatment Fear

By Sakini Mohd Said

KUANTAN, Feb 19 (Bernama) -- "There is nothing wrong with my tooth. Why should I see the dentist? The tooth is in good condition, and I can eat."

That is the attitude of many people, and it is so widespread that it can be called a culture.

Many still think a dentist should be visited only when one develops a toothache.

Why is this so?

Is it the fear of a dental 'drill' in one's mouth or that of the high cost of treatment? These are only two of the several factors believed to keep people from visiting their dentists regularly.


The Dental Faculty Dean of Lincoln University College and Dental Public Health Senior Consultant Professor Dr Rahimah Abdul Kadir said close to 75 per cent of the country's population receiving dental treatment had a fear of seeing the dentist.

The fear arose from seeing dentists in their typical white overalls and holding dental instruments. This is known as the 'white coat syndrome'.

Not only small children, but adults too experience this fear.

In an effort to address the white coat syndrome, the dental faculty of the International Islamic University Malaysia (UIAM) adopted various measures, including colour variations in the dentist's attire.


This approach is fascinating.

Colours such as dark grey, blue and pink are used to clothe dentists, creating a different look from the usual 'white'.

Upon stepping through the glass doors of the Dental Facility at the UIAM campus in Kuantan, visitors are impressed with what they see.

From the sofa and walls to the 'dentist's tunic' worn by dental students, everything is in a brilliant range of colours.

This psychological approach attracts the attention of children and reduces feelings of tension and fear of the dentist.

By adopting such changes, the facility has attracted some 10,000 new patients a year, UIAM Periodontal Dentistry Specialist Dr Suhaila Muhammad Ali told Bernama.

"All dental students are required to discuss among themselves during the first year of their course and choose the colour of their overalls.

"They are not allowed to choose white. Their overalls are meant to not only do away with fear and create a brilliant atmosphere, but also to enable us to identify which batch they are from," she said.


While the colour approach may be able to dissipate fear, apprehension may return once patients are seated in dental chairs and see the various dental instruments, causing them to recollect past dental experiences.

To address this problem, UIAM's Dental Polyclinic provides LCD televisions at each dental cubicle as a way to allay the patient's apprehension.

The polyclinic is equipped with 150 LCD televisions imported from Finland.

"Patients can request any show. This psychological approach can help the patient relax when the treatment is on," she said.


Patients who receive treatment at UIAM's dental polyclinic do not have to pay any charges, regardless of the type of treatment administered.

The treatment provided at the polyclinic ranges from the preparation of dentures to that of dental fillings, as well as the scaling and polishing of teeth.

Using this strategy, UIAM wants to attract as many patients as possible for the clinical training of its dental students.

But there is an area of concern.

Is the treatment administered by students safe?

Speaking of this, Dr Suhaila explained that the dental treatment and services rendered were safe and of high quality, even though dental students were involved.

She said the students were supervised by their lecturers during the clinical sessions at the polyclinic and were also required to discuss with their lecturers before carrying out any procedures.


Not only are dental students required to discuss with their lecturers before commencing any procedure, each and every step they take is monitored by the lecturer in charge of the student.

"The duration of the dentistry course at UIAM is five years and divided into two phases. The first and second years are in the first phase, which is the pre-clinical stage.

"During the preclinical stage, everything is simulated and students learn practical work using dummies. They perform procedures on dummies until they master the skills needed.

"Students are required to pass a simulation examination before they advance to the clinical stage (Year 3, 4 and 5), where they treat real-life patients at the polyclinic," she said.


UIAM has spent RM132 million to establish its dental facility. This includes constructing simulation and consultation rooms, a dental polyclinic and laboratories.

The faculty is also equipped with the 'Cone Beam Computed Tomography' (CBCT) system -- a three-dimensional x-ray imaging facility.

The images produced via this system facilitate the identification of dental problems and the treatment needed.