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Pain. 1999 Feb;79(2-3):155-63.

The effects of disclosure on pain during dental hygiene treatment: the moderating role of catastrophizing.

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  • 1Department of Psychology Psychiatry, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.


Catastrophizers and non-catastrophizers were asked to disclose about their dental worries prior to undergoing dental hygiene treatment. It was hypothesized that the effects of emotional disclosure would vary as a function of the level of catastrophizing; where catastrophizers would be more likely than non-catastrophizers to show reductions in pain and emotional distress. The study also examined whether emotional disclosure influenced subsequent levels of catastrophizing and dental anxiety. Eighty undergraduate students were randomly assigned to a disclosure condition or a control condition prior to undergoing a scaling and root planing procedure. In the control condition, catastrophizers reported significantly more pain and emotional distress than non-catastrophizers. In the disclosure condition, catastrophizers and non-catastrophizers did not differ significantly in their pain and emotional distress. The interaction between condition and level of catastrophizing remained significant even when controlling for emotional distress and the emotional content of the thought records. While catastrophizers benefited from disclosure in regard to their immediate physical and emotional experience, their levels of catastrophizing and dental anxiety remained essentially unchanged. Theoretical and clinical implications of the findings are discussed.

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