The extent and nature of dental fear and phobia in Australia

Aust Dent J. 2010 Dec;55(4):368-77. doi: 10.1111/j.1834-7819.2010.01256.x.


Background: For the general dental practitioner, fearful patients are harder and more stressful to treat and are most likely to attend irregularly. This study presents updated and refined dental fear and phobia prevalence estimates in Australia as well as information on the nature of dental fear and phobia.

Methods: A total of 1084 Australian adults (response rate = 71.7%) completed a mailed questionnaire. The survey contained four measures of dental fear and phobia, as well as questions regarding potentially anxiety-eliciting dental stimuli and past aversive dental experiences.

Results: The prevalence of high dental fear ranged from 7.8% to 18.8%, and more incapacitating dental phobia from 0.9% to 5.4%, depending upon the scale, cut-point and specific criteria used. Dental phobia was significantly associated with blood-injection-injury (BII) concerns. The cost of dental treatment was endorsed as the most anxiety-eliciting dental situation (64.5%), followed by fear of needles/injections (46.0%) and painful or uncomfortable procedures (42.9%). Anxiety-eliciting stimuli and the type of aversive dental experiences varied significantly by gender, age, income, education, language spoken at home and dental visiting frequency.

Conclusions: High dental fear and dental phobia are common in Australia although prevalence estimates are highly dependent on both the scale and cut-points used.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Dental Anxiety / epidemiology*
  • Dental Anxiety / etiology
  • Dental Anxiety / psychology*
  • Dental Care / adverse effects
  • Dental Care / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Injections / adverse effects
  • Injections / psychology
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult