Dental fear and anxiety in children and adolescents: qualitative study using YouTube

J Med Internet Res. 2013 Feb 22;15(2):e29. doi: 10.2196/jmir.2290.


Background: Dental fear and anxiety (DFA) refers to the fear of and anxiety towards going to the dentist. It exists in a considerable proportion of children and adolescents and is a major dilemma in pediatric dental practice. As an Internet social medium with increasing popularity, the video-sharing website YouTube offers a useful data source for understanding health behaviors and perceptions of the public.

Objective: Using YouTube as a platform, this qualitative study aimed to examine the manifestations, impacts, and origins of DFA in children and adolescents from the public's perspective.

Methods: To retrieve relevant information, we searched YouTube using the keywords "dental fear", "dental anxiety", and "dental phobia". Videos in English expressing a layperson's views or experience on children's or adolescent's DFA were selected for this study. A video was excluded if it had poor audiovisual quality, was irrelevant, was pure advertisement or entertainment, or contained only the views of professionals. After the screen, we transcribed 27 videos involving 32 children and adolescents, which were reviewed by a panel of 3 investigators, including a layperson with no formal dental training. Inductive thematic analysis was applied for coding and interpreting the data.

Results: The videos revealed multiple manifestations and impacts of DFA, including immediate physical reactions (eg, crying, screaming, and shivering), psychological responses (eg, worry, upset, panic, helplessness, insecurity, resentment, and hatred), and uncooperativeness in dental treatment. Testimonials from children, adolescents, and their parents suggested diverse origins of DFA, namely personal experience (eg, irregular dental visits and influence of parents or peers), dentists and dental auxiliaries (eg, bad manner, lack of clinical skills, and improper work ethic), dental settings (eg, dental chair and sounds), and dental procedures (eg, injections, pain, discomfort, and aesthetic concerns).

Conclusions: This qualitative study suggests that DFA in children and adolescents has multifaceted manifestations, impacts, and origins, some of which only became apparent when using Internet social media. Our findings support the value of infodemiological studies using Internet social media to gain a better understanding of health issues.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Dental Anxiety / psychology*
  • Dental Care / psychology
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Male
  • Qualitative Research
  • Social Media*
  • Video Recording