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Br Dent J. 2000 Oct 14;189(7):385-90.

The impact of dental anxiety on daily living.

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Community Dental Service, Riverside NHS Trust.



To explore the impact of dental anxiety on daily living.


Twenty people attending a dental sedation clinic completed the Modified Dental Anxiety Scale, and were interviewed privately using a reflexive, in-depth technique. All interviews were audio-tape recorded and transcribed. The transcripts were analysed to identify the impact of dental anxiety upon the participants' daily lives. Twenty-five per cent of the qualitative data was reviewed by an independent researcher to ensure the reliability of the analysis.


The mean age of participants was 41 years (range 23 to 60). The mean MDAS score was 21.5 (range 14 to 25). Five main impacts of dental anxiety were identified: physiological; cognitive; behavioural; health; and social. Subsumed under these broad categories were: the fright response; a vast array of negative thoughts, feelings and fears; avoidance behaviour and behaviours related to eating, oral hygiene, and self-medication; and other manifestations of anxiety in the dental environment including muscular tension, crying and aggression were all identified. Dental anxiety was also found to disturb sleep and to have a profound affect socially, interfering with work and personal relationships.


The impact that dental anxiety can have on people's lives is wide-ranging and dynamic.

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