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Nicola Southern

Psychological Assessment of the Patient

Nicola Soiuthern

Mental health is increasingly in focus across society with individuals encouraged to be more open about their own issues as well as more understanding of those faced by others. It is thought a number of factors - biological, social, environmental and psychological - can play a part in triggering mental health conditions which can be a short-term problem but can also last a lifetime.

This presentation will examine how better awareness of psychological and mental health issues in dentistry can deliver improved care and patient experience. With psychological well-being increasingly thought to be strongly linked to physical health, dental professionals need to understand how different mental health issues can impact on patients and how best to plan treatment to enable them to cope with procedures.

Gathering as much detail as possible about a patient’s wider physical and mental health before treatment is vital. As well as formal psychological assessment and diagnosis, understanding information such as non-verbal cues from patients can be valuable in building an informed ‘whole person’ picture.

The presentation will focus on the more common types of mental health issues encountered, how they can impact on dental health and what professionals need to be aware of when treating these patients.

With stress and anxiety directly linked to dentistry (48% of patients are thought to suffer from some form of dental anxiety), the presentation will address how the Modified Dental Anxiety Scale can be effectively used in practice.

Learning Objectives

  • To be aware of how different factors can trigger mental health conditions
  • To recognise the more common types of mental health issues we encounter
  • To understand how psychological and mental health issues can link to dental health
  • To gain an understanding of how the Modified Dental Anxiety Scale can be put into practice


Nicola Southern has gained more than 30 years of clinical experience across both NHS and private practice since qualifying as a Dental Hygienist from Leeds Dental Institute in 1984. An interest in gaining more insight into patient behaviour led Nicola to embark on a BSc in Psychology and her dissertation focused on reducing anxiety in patients during treatment. After completing her degree Nicola took a PGCE teaching qualification course and went on to lecture across a variety of psychology-related courses at Bolton College over an eight-year period. More recently she has been involved in a research project at the University of Manchester, investigating the link between periodontitis and osteoporosis. As Research Hygienist on the project Nicola was able to draw on her knowledge of psychology and extensive clinical experience. During her time at the University she also had the opportunity to teach on the BSc Oral Health Science course. She recently presented at the ADI Team Congress 2019. Nicola now works full time at a busy Bupa practice.

Qualifications: RDH BSc (Hons) Psychology PGCE