Changes in dental anxiety among 15‐ to 21‐year‐olds. A 2‐year longitudinal analysis based on the Tromsø study: Fit futures
Methods: An observational panel study of 15‐to 21‐year‐old people in Tromsø and Balsfjord region followed students from their first to their last year of upper secondary school (2010/11‐2012/13). Logistic regression was used to estimate odds ratios and their 95% confidence intervals (CI) of possible predictive variables assessed at baseline when using dental anxiety score from the second wave as a dichotomous dependent variable. Variables measured at baseline: Sex, Dental Caries Experiences (DMFS index), Dental Anxiety (Corah's Dental Anxiety Scale/DAS), Psychological Distress (Hopkins Symptom Checklist/HSCL‐10), Avoidance of dental treatment, Pain Estimation at the dentist and motivational questions related to tooth brushing and caries (Self and Social Motivation). Wilcoxon signed‐rank tests and Kruskal‐Wallis tests were used to test whether changes in DAS score between waves were associated with changes in Pain Estimation between waves and HSCL‐10 scores at baseline.
Results: Hopkins Symptom Checklist, DMFS and DAS scores at baseline predicted high dental anxiety scores after 2 years. Sex, motivation related to oral hygiene and avoidance due to fear at baseline did not contribute significantly to our model. DMFS and HSCL‐10 were higher among young people who reported a substantial change in DAS score (2.0>Interquartile range/IQR), irrespective of the direction of change. Pain Estimation changed consistently with a change in DAS score.
Conclusion: Mental health symptoms, pre‐existing dental anxiety and dental health status are important contributors to the development of dental anxiety in youth. Estimations of pain at the dentist are central when it comes to changes in dental anxiety over time in this study.