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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.

The study, “Anxiety and Facial Self-Contacts: Possible Impact on COVID-19 Transmission in Dental Practice,” published in BMC Oral Health, included 128 adults 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 the clinic were monitored using Microsoft Kinect software.

Women showed more frequent self-contact of their face when compared to men in the study group. They also demontrated longer facial and eye contact, greater trait anxiety, and higher levels of dental fear. However, the effect of COVID-19 fear had a small impact 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 a small sample size. 

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