Background: The aims of this study were to assess the degree of pain experienced by patients during probing and debridement and to determine whether the pain responses could be predicted by the patient's age, gender, percentage of sites > or = 4 mm deep, and responses to a questionnaire on dental anxiety.
Methods: Prior to the maintenance procedures, 26 adult patients completed an anxiety questionnaire. Subsequently, measurements of probing depths were performed. The patients activated a tallying device at each probe entry that evoked pain (pain frequency). Pain levels for each quadrant were also assessed with a visual analog scale (VAS). Following probing, the same protocol was repeated during instrumentation (debridement).
Results: Most patients showed low pain responses to both probing and instrumentation as evaluated by both methods of measurement. However, using arbitrary thresholds of pain frequency > or = 50% and VAS > or = 40 mm, approximately 15% of the patients had a painful experience. Stepwise multiple regression analyses disclosed that significant portions of the pain levels could be predicted by gender and the patients' answers to 2 of the dental anxiety questions.
Conclusions: Recognition of patients who are likely to experience pain during periodontal treatment can be facilitated by the use of 2 questions on dental anxiety and the VAS response to probing during examination.