Dental fear/anxiety among children and adolescents. A systematic review

Eur J Paediatr Dent. 2017 Jun;18(2):121-130. doi: 10.23804/ejpd.2017.18.02.07.


Aim: The aim of this paper was to review the published scientific literature to quantify the prevalence and mean score of dental fear/anxiety (DFA) in children/adolescents and its variation according to several variables.

Materials and methods: Cross- sectional and cohort studies published from 2000 to 2014, that measured DFA in children /adolescents (aged 0-19 years), in the general population, or visiting private or public dental services (general or pediatric) or attending school and kindergarten, were searched, with specific terms, in 3 electronic databases (Medline, Embase, Web Of Science). Primary data, collected with specific questionnaires of demonstrated reliability and/or validity, were extracted.

Results: After screening 743 abstracts and evaluating 164 full-text publications, 36 articles were selected. Dental fear/anxiety prevalence rates were 12.2%, 10.0%, 12.2%,11.0% and 20.0% for the CFSS-DS, DAS, MDAS, DFS, and DFSS-SF scores, respectively. In the studies that used MCDAS Dental fear/prevalence rates varied from 13.3% to 29.3%. In the studies that used CFSS-DS ratings, the prevalence and the mean score of dental fear/anxiety was lower in Northern Europe than the remaining countries, the prevalence decreased with increasing age and the frequency was higher in females than males.

Conclusions: Dental fear/anxiety is a common problem in children/adolescents worldwide, therefore, new strategies to overcome this relevant children/adolescent condition should be encouraged.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dental Anxiety / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Prevalence
  • Young Adult