The prevalence of dental anxiety across previous distressing experiences

J Anxiety Disord. 2011 Mar;25(2):232-6. doi: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2010.09.007. Epub 2010 Sep 19.


Aims: To compare the prevalence of high dental anxiety across a variety of past distressing experiences with a previously reported Dutch sample.

Method: University students from the UK (N=1024) completed an online survey containing; the Modified Dental Anxiety Scale, and the Level of Exposure-Dental Experiences Questionnaire (LOE-DEQ). Adjusted odds ratios (OR) were calculated to assess the association of self-reported distressing experiences and dental anxiety.

Results: The percentage of respondents with high dental anxiety (HDA) (total MDAS score≥19) was 11.2%. Significant prevalence of HDA across several distressing experiences was shown in both UK and Dutch samples notably: extreme helplessness during dental treatment, lack of understanding of the dentist and extreme embarrassment during dental treatment. There were little or no effects of non-dental trauma, with the exception of sexual abuse in the UK sample.

Conclusions: Trauma from various past experiences may be implicated in an increased risk of high dental anxiety.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dental Anxiety / epidemiology*
  • Dental Anxiety / etiology
  • Dental Care / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Prevalence
  • Surveys and Questionnaires