Dental anxiety (DA) is a common problem; the latest Adult Dental Health Survey (UK) reported nearly half of the adult population experienced anxiety when visiting the dentist. Given individual differences in the experience of dental anxiety, it is important for the dentist to understand its development, detection and management. This article aims to provide an overview of the main psychological theories to explain the development of dental anxiety (behavioural, psychoanalytical and cognitive), as well as an overview of anxiety detection and management techniques from a psychological perspective. Clinical relevance: Dental anxiety is a common barrier to oral healthcare, with nearly half of the UK population affected. By understanding its causes, effective management can reduce anxiety, and therefore barriers to achieving high standards of oral health can be overcome.