Dental phobic patients' view of dental anxiety and experiences in dental care: a qualitative study

Scand J Caring Sci. 2002 Jun;16(2):188-96. doi: 10.1046/j.1471-6712.2002.00083.x.


Dental phobic patients' view of dental anxiety and experiences in dental care: a qualitative study The aim of this study was to explore and describe dental phobic patients' perceptions of their dental fear and experiences in dental care. The study sample consisted of 18 participants (12 women), with a mean age of 39.4 years, selected consecutively from patients applying for treatment at a specialized dental fear clinic in Göteborg, Sweden. Dental fear, assessed by the Dental Anxiety Scale, showed score levels well over established levels for severe dental fear. The method for sampling and analysis was inspired by the constant comparative method for Grounded Theory (GT). The thematized in-depth interviews took place outside the clinic and lasted for 1-1.5 h. All the interviews were conducted by the first author (KHA), audiotaped and transcribed verbatim. Three higher-order categories were developed and labelled existential threat, vulnerability and unsupportive dentist. Existential threat was identified as the core category, describing the central meaning of the subjects' experiences in dental care. The core category included two dimensions, labelled threat of violation and threat of loss of autonomy and independence. The core category and the descriptive categories are integrated in a model framing the process of dental fear, as described by the informants. In conclusion, the onset of dental fear was commonly related to individual vulnerability and to traumatic dental care experiences, where perceived negative dentist behaviour played a significant role. The patient was caught in a 'vicious circle' that was difficult to break, and where fear and anxiety were maintained by negative expectations about treatment and about patient's own ability to cope in dental care situations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Dental Anxiety / psychology*
  • Dentist-Patient Relations*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Personal Autonomy