Five years' follow-up of dental fear and anxiety, experience of dental care and oral health behaviour in Swedish preterm and full-term adolescents

BMC Oral Health. 2017 Dec 4;17(1):145. doi: 10.1186/s12903-017-0431-0.


Background: There is rising concern about how preterm birth affects long-term health later in life. The various effects that preterm birth have on developmental outcomes, cognitive profiles and medical health may also affect levels of cooperation in the dental care situation in addition to general oral health and other oral health-related habits. Oral health is an integral part of one's general health and well-being; however, less is known about how prematurity affects oral health and other related areas such as dental care, and including dental fear and anxiety (DFA) in individuals during adolescence and adulthood. This is considered of special interest to study, as preterm children during the preschool and school period were reported to have behavioural problems during dental treatments and less than favourable oral hygiene.

Methods: A questionnaire was used of self-report design and structured into behavioural aspects relating to dental treatment, oral health-related factors, and medical health. This questionnaire at 17-19 years of age was a follow-up from 12 to 14 years of age and considered a predictor for planning future dental care for this group of patients. The 145 participating adolescents were all preterm, born between 23 and 32 weeks of gestation and 140 full-term controls, born ≥37 weeks of gestation.

Results: Dental fear and anxiety, oral health behaviour, and intake of sweets and sugary drinks of 17-19-year old adolescents born preterm was comparable to that of the full-term control group. Medical health problems as well as the intake of sweets and sugary drinks increased from the time of early adolescence to late adolescence in both groups.

Conclusions: Preterm as well as full-term adolescents between 17 and 19 years of age are satisfied with their dental care and display low prevalence of dental fear and anxiety (DFA). The findings in this study indicate that adolescents born very preterm and extremely preterm are well prepared for transition to dental care in adult life with expectations of being able to take responsibility for their oral health.

Keywords: Adolescent; Born preterm; Dental care; Oral health behaviour.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Dental Anxiety / epidemiology*
  • Dental Care*
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Premature
  • Male
  • Oral Health*
  • Self Report
  • Sweden
  • Time Factors