Dental fear is a common and widespread problem, which can cause severe stress. Even so, most patients with dental fear undergo regular dental treatment in spite of their fear and many enjoy good oral health. The aim of this study was to obtain a deeper understanding of how patients with dental fear manage to undergo dental treatment. Fourteen patients with dental fear, who undergo regular dental care, were interviewed. Qualitative analysis of the transcribed interviews was performed according to the principles of grounded theory. A conceptual framework was generated, and the main concern was identified as 'making dental care possible - a mutual affair'. Four additional categories explained how patients handled their dental fear and how dental care became possible. The strategies were labelled 'taking part in a mental wrestling match', 'trust-filled interaction with dental staff', 'striving for control' and 'seeking and/or receiving social support'. The results showed that making dental care possible for patients with dental fear is a mutual challenge that requires interplay between dental staff and patients, involving verbal and non-verbal communication reflecting respect, attention, and empathy. Moreover, a balance between nearness and distance and between professional and personal treatment is required.
© 2011 Eur J Oral Sci.