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Fear of Fear: The Intractable Global Problem of Dental Anxiety

In his inaugural professorial address, Professor Zac Morse from Auckland University of Technology will give a talk on interprofessional learning and practices to solve complex problems such as dental anxiety.

Photo by Juan Carlos Rivera

1 in 8 New Zealanders are dentally anxious and the prevalence is similar to global estimates. Dental fear is a major impediment to dental care and oral health; and there can be no general health without oral health.

In the mid-1800s, dentists pioneered anaesthesia, specifically nitrous oxide (or laughing gas) and ether gas, which made modern surgery and life as we know it possible. Sedatives and anaesthetics, when used to help manage dental anxiety, are complex and costly. Pharmacological approaches to treating dental anxiety do not treat the underlying causes and dental fear remains a significant public health concern and an intractable global problem.

This year, we celebrate 100 years since the creation of the New Zealand School Dental Service. In the intervening years, it was New Zealand’s dental nurses who started the evolution of the profession from dental nurses to dental therapists and then oral health therapists. This progression has formed an important part of the current Oral Health Therapy profession which has been established in other parts of the world.

Professor Morse will describe in brief his long and winding journey to this point and will focus on interprofessional learning and practices to solve complex problems such as dental anxiety.

More on the speaker

zac morse public lecture 2021

He was awarded both a Bachelor of Dental Surgery and Bachelor of Science in Dentistry (with First Class Honours) from the University of Adelaide, Graduate Diploma in Clinical Dentistry (Conscious Sedation and Pain Control) from the University of Sydney, Doctor of Philosophy from the Nippon Dental University, Postgraduate Diploma in Endodontics from the British Academy of Restorative Dentistry, and a Certificate in Advanced Orthodontics from Hong Kong. He has studied (16 years of tertiary education), lived, worked in and been exposed to diverse environments, cultures and languages. These experiences have shaped his personal, cultural and academic identity, which he now shares at AUT.


Zac Morse



Auckland University of Technology


AUT City Campus, WA Conference Centre, 55 Wellesley Street East, Auckland 1010

4:30pm Tue 15 June, 2021 - 5:30pm Tue 15 June, 2021