The impact of dental anxiety on daily living

Br Dent J. 2000 Oct 14;189(7):385-90. doi: 10.1038/sj.bdj.4800777.


Aim: To explore the impact of dental anxiety on daily living.

Method: Twenty people attending a dental sedation clinic completed the Modified Dental Anxiety Scale, and were interviewed privately using a reflexive, in-depth technique. All interviews were audio-tape recorded and transcribed. The transcripts were analysed to identify the impact of dental anxiety upon the participants' daily lives. Twenty-five per cent of the qualitative data was reviewed by an independent researcher to ensure the reliability of the analysis.

Results: The mean age of participants was 41 years (range 23 to 60). The mean MDAS score was 21.5 (range 14 to 25). Five main impacts of dental anxiety were identified: physiological; cognitive; behavioural; health; and social. Subsumed under these broad categories were: the fright response; a vast array of negative thoughts, feelings and fears; avoidance behaviour and behaviours related to eating, oral hygiene, and self-medication; and other manifestations of anxiety in the dental environment including muscular tension, crying and aggression were all identified. Dental anxiety was also found to disturb sleep and to have a profound affect socially, interfering with work and personal relationships.

Conclusion: The impact that dental anxiety can have on people's lives is wide-ranging and dynamic.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living / psychology*
  • Adult
  • Behavior
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Dental Anxiety / complications
  • Dental Anxiety / physiopathology*
  • Dental Anxiety / psychology*
  • Fear
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Manifest Anxiety Scale
  • Middle Aged
  • Observer Variation
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / etiology
  • Social Behavior Disorders / etiology