Dental fear/anxiety and dental behaviour management problems in children and adolescents: a review of prevalence and concomitant psychological factors

Int J Paediatr Dent. 2007 Nov;17(6):391-406. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-263X.2007.00872.x.


Objectives: The objectives of this article were to examine the literature published from 1982 to 2006 and to evaluate prevalence of dental fear and anxiety (DFA) and dental behaviour management problems (DBMP) in children and adolescents, and their relationships to age, sex, general anxiety, temperament, and general behavioural problems.

Methods: A broad search of the PubMed database was performed using three combinations of search terms.

Results: A large proportion of the identified articles could not be used for the review owing to inadequate endpoints, measures or poor study design. Thirty-two papers of acceptable quality were identified and reviewed. The prevalence of both DFA and DBMP were estimated to 9%, with a decrease in prevalence with age. DFA/DBMP were more frequent in girls. DFA/DBMP were related to general fear and both internalizing and externalizing behavioural problems, although these relationships were not clear-cut. Temperament was related to both DFA and DBMP but with different temperamental characteristics, while general behavioural problems mainly correlated with DBMP.

Conclusions: DFA/DBMP are common, and several psychological factors are associated with the development of these problems. In order to better understand these relationships, a number of issues concerning design of research and measurement of DFA/DBMP have to be dealt with.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Age Factors
  • Behavior Control*
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / epidemiology
  • Child Behavior Disorders / psychology
  • Child Behavior*
  • Dental Anxiety / epidemiology*
  • Dental Anxiety / psychology
  • Dental Care / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Factors