Dental fear and avoidance in treatment seekers at a large, urban dental clinic

Richard E. Heyman, Amy M.Smith Slep, Mandi White-Ajmani, Lisanne Bulling, Hana F. Zickgraf, Martin E. Franklin, Mark S. Wolff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The prevalence and correlates of dental fear have been studied in representative population studies, but not in patients presenting for dental treatment. We hypothesized that dental fear among patients presenting at a large, urban college of dentistry would be similar to that of the population (e.g. 11% high dental fear, 17% to 35% moderate or higher fear) and that fear would be associated with avoidance of routine dental care, increased use of urgent dental care and poor oral health. Materials and Methods: Participants were 1070 consecutive patients at a large, urban dental care center. All patients completed a clinical interview, including demographics, medical history, dental history and presenting concerns, and behavioral health history. Patients were also asked to rate their dental anxiety/fear on a 1 (none) to 10 (high) scale. Results: Over 20% of patients reported elevated anxiety/fear, of which 12.30% reported moderate and 8.75% high fear. Severity of dental anxiety/fear was strongly related to the likelihood of avoiding dental services in the past and related to myriad presenting problems. Conclusions: As hypothesized, the prevalence of moderate or higher fear in dental patients was considerable and closely matched that found in general population surveys. Thus, the 'dental home' is an ideal location to treat clinically significant dental anxiety/fear.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)315-320
Number of pages6
JournalOral Health and Preventive Dentistry
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2016


  • Dental anxiety
  • Dental clinic
  • Dental fear
  • Prevention
  • Psychosocial factors
  • Risk factors
  • Social determinants of health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dental Hygiene


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