Prevalence and correlates of dental anxiety in patients seeking dental care

Community Dent Oral Epidemiol. 2015 Apr;43(2):135-42. doi: 10.1111/cdoe.12132. Epub 2014 Oct 24.


Objectives: To examine the prevalence of dental anxiety and its associations with pain and other psychological variables among patients seeking dental treatment and develop a directed acyclical graph of these relationships.

Methods: One hundred and twenty patients who sought regular or emergency dental care completed a semi-structured interview assessing DSM-IV specific phobia of dental procedures and questionnaires assessing dental anxiety, pain at last dental visit, blood-injection-injury (BII) phobia, social appearance anxiety, and other psychological constructs. Differences between regular and emergency patients were explored using t-tests. Potential excess risk of dental anxiety due to interactions between pain and psychological processes was explored. Finally, multivariate linear regression was conducted.

Results: Thirty-five percent of participants came for emergency care. Almost half (49.2%) reported moderate or high anxiety, and 20% met criteria for specific phobia. The relationship between pain at the last dental visit and dental anxiety scores was confounded by social appearance anxiety and BII phobia.

Conclusion: The dental anxiety-pain response may be affected by psychological processes such as social appearance anxiety and BII phobia. Targeting these related psychological constructs may improve the management of anxiety treatment among adult patients seeking dental care.

Keywords: dental anxiety; dental phobia; directed acyclical graph; pain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dental Anxiety / epidemiology*
  • Dental Care / psychology
  • Dental Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain / psychology
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Prevalence
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult