Purpose: This cross-sectional study aimed to explain the nature of needle phobia and its relationship in dental phobic children with evidence on age-related differences.
Methods: The study used 2,865 patients (52% boys, 48% girls), 4 to 11 years old (mean=7.18 years). The patient sample included randomly selected patients (N=2,153) and an anxious group of children (N=712). Children were divided into 3 age groups (4-6, 7-9, and 10-11 years). The Children Fear Survey Schedule--Dental Subscale (CFSS-DS) was used to assess age-related needle phobia (CFSS-DS question 3) and dental anxiety. Children were arranged into 3 anxiety groups (cutoffs=scores of 25 and 37). Children who scored >37 were considered needle-phobic. Statistical analysis was performed using Statistics for Windows 10.
Results: Needle phobia progressively decreases with increasing age (19% of 4- to 6-year-old vs 11% of 10- to 11-year-old needle phobics; P< or =05). Stepwise regression analysis revealed needle phobia does not primarily seem to be related to dental anxiety. Other aspects, like having had someone examine the mouth and the dentist drilling, contribute the most to dental anxiety in both low- and high-anxiety children. Fear of doctors is more specific for high-anxiety children (P < or =05). A significant age-related difference regarding needle phobia is found between children ages 4 to 6 and 7 to 9 and between children ages 4 to 6 and 10 to 11 (P < or =001).
Conclusions: Needle phobia is age related, but should be considered a separate phenomenon. It is not specific for dental anxiety and is related to other painful treatment.