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J Oral Sci. 2009 Dec;51(4):515-20.

Dental anxiety and salivary cortisol levels before urgent dental care.

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Department of Stomatology, Faculty of Dentistry, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil.


Dental anxiety is still prevalent, despite advances in treatment, and affects the utilization of health care services. The purpose of this cross-sectional study was to determine if patients with different degrees of dental anxiety and pain undergoing emergency dental care have different stress reactions as measured by salivary cortisol. Seventy three patients completed the modified dental anxiety scale (MDAS), and described any previous dental traumatic experience. Their socio-demographic characteristics were also recorded. They also rated pain intensity on a 100 mm visual analogue scale (VAS). A saliva sample was collected before the procedure, and analyzed by enzyme immunoassay. Thirty patients were dentally anxious and forty one complained of pain. In this sample, dental anxiety was not related to gender, age, educational level and family income; however, a previous traumatic event was related to dental anxiety. There was no association between salivary cortisol concentrations and gender or dental anxiety. Patients with pain showed higher cortisol levels. When gathering patient information, the dentist should note patients' negative dental experiences in order to provide more effective, less traumatic treatment.

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