In 1986, 1,019 residents of Seattle were surveyed about their dental fears, dental experiences, and perceived oral health status. High dental fear in Seattle was found to affect 204 per 1,000 people. More than 66% acquired their fear in early childhood. Females were 1.8 times more likely than males to report high fear (P less than .001). An individual was 1.6 times as likely to have high levels of dental fear if he or she had at least one oral problem such as bleeding gingiva (P = .004).