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Community Dent Oral Epidemiol. 2003 Apr;31(2):144-51.

Psychosocial consequences of dental fear and anxiety.

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Faculty of Dentistry, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.



The aim of this study was to examine the negative psychosocial impacts of dental anxiety in a sample of dentally fearful and anxious individuals recruited from the general population. The associations between psychosocial impacts, dental anxiety scale (DAS) scores and other severe fears were explored.


One hundred and thirty-five subjects who were anxious or fearful about dental treatment were divided into low and high general fear groups based on the number of other severe fears they reported. Negative psychosocial impacts were assessed using a modified form of the scale developed by Kent et al. (1996). This consisted of three dimensions: psychological reactions, social relationships and avoidance/inhibition. Other measures included self-ratings of oral, general and emotional health and scales to assess self-esteem and morale.


Overall, 93.1% of subjects reported one or more impacts. Those in the high-fear group had higher psychosocial impact scores than those in the low-fear group (means of 4.19 vs. 2.85; P < 0.05). Differences were most marked with respect to psychological consequences and avoidance/inhibition. The high-fear group had scores indicative of lower self-esteem and lower morale. Forward stepwise linear and logistic regression analyses indicated that both dental anxiety and general fearfulness contributed to these negative outcomes. However, the latter was a more consistent predictor in that it entered six of seven models generated while the former entered only four.


The study indicated that dental fear and anxiety have pervasive psychosocial consequences, and that these are more marked among subjects with high levels of general fearfulness. It also provided evidence of the validity of a modified form of the psychosocial impact scale developed by Kent et al. (1996).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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