Prevalence of dental fear and phobia relative to other fear and phobia subtypes

Eur J Oral Sci. 2009 Apr;117(2):135-43. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0722.2008.00602.x.


The purpose of the present study was to estimate the point prevalence of dental fear and dental phobia relative to 10 other common fears and Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)-IV-TR subtypes of specific phobia. Data were also analysed to examine differences with regard to severity, presence of distressing recollections of fear-related events, gender, and prevalence across age. Data were obtained by means of a survey of 1,959 Dutch adults, 18-93 yr of age. Phobias were assessed based on DSM-IV-TR criteria, whereas severity of present fears was assessed using visual analogue scales. The prevalence of dental fear was 24.3%, which is lower than for fear of snakes (34.8%), heights (30.8%), and physical injuries (27.2%). Among phobias, dental phobia was the most common (3.7%), followed by height phobia (3.1%) and spider phobia (2.7%). Fear of dental treatment was associated with female gender, rated as more severe than any other fear, and was most strongly associated with intrusive re-experiencing (49.4%). The findings suggest that dental fear is a remarkably severe and stable condition with a long duration. The high prevalence of dental phobia in the Netherlands is intriguing and warrants investigation in other countries.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Dental Anxiety / epidemiology*
  • Fear / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Phobic Disorders / classification
  • Phobic Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Self-Assessment
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Distribution
  • Young Adult