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Rev Saude Publica. 2003 Dec;37(6):786-92. Epub 2003 Nov 27.

[Dental anxiety in an emergency dental service].

[Article in Portuguese]

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Departamento de Estomatologia, Faculdade de Odontologia, Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo, SP, Brasil.



The purpose of the study was to assess the frequency of dental anxiety and/or fear among patients in an emergency dental service.


Research was based on interviews with 252 patients, aged 18 years old and over, attended at an emergency dentistry service of São Paulo, Brazil, from August to November, 2001. Two methods were used to measure dental anxiety: the Modified Dental Anxiety Scale (MDAS) and the Gatchel Fear Scale. The study group answered questions concerning major complaint, how much time had elapsed since their last visit to the dentist and since the initial symptoms leading to the current visit to the emergency service, level of education, family income and previous traumas. Statistical analysis (chi2 and Fisher exact test) was performed to evaluate these characteristics.


It was found that 28.17% of this sample was dentally anxious, according to the MDAS, and 14.29%, felt fear related to dental treatment according to the Gatchel Fear Scale. Women were more anxious than men at a statistically significant rate (MDAS). The time elapsed since the onset of initial symptoms was more than 7 days for 44.44% of the participants. A large proportion of anxious women returned to treatment during the last year. A previous traumatic experience with dental was identified in 46.48% of the dentally anxious patients. No significant relation between level of education or income and dental anxiety was found.


Dentally anxious patients frequent attend emergency care. Females are more likely to report high dental anxiety than males. Previous experience seems to be an important factor contributing to avoidance of dental care.

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