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Study Examines Role of Anxiety and Facial Self-Contact in COVID-19 Transmission


An investigation into the association between fear of COVID-19, dental anxiety, and the frequency of hand-to-face contact in a dental setting may offer a better understanding of these biopsychosocial factors in the spread of COVID-19 in this patient population. 

The study, “Anxiety and Facial Self-Contacts: Possible Impact on COVID-19 Transmission in Dental Practice,” published in BMC Oral Health, included 128 adult subjects from four dental clinics in Madrid, Spain, from March 15 to May 15, 2020. Patients completed the trait anxiety subscale of the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, a COVID-19 fear assessment, and a short version of the Dental Anxiety Inventory questionnaire. In addition, their movements while in clinic were monitored using Microsoft Kinect software.

Female subjects were found to show more frequent self-contact of their face when compared to males in the study group. They also demontrated longer facial and eye contact, greater trait anxiety, and greater dental fear. However, fear of COVID-19 was observed as having a small effect on hand-to-face contact. Facial self-contact also becomes more frequent in men as dental fear increases, the authors report. The researchers note limitations of the study include convenience sampling and the small sample size. 

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