Prevalence of dental anxiety and associations with oral health, psychological distress, avoidance and anticipated pain in adolescence: a cross-sectional study based on the Tromsø study, Fit Futures
Materials and methods: We used self-report questionnaires and clinical dental examination data from adolescents registered in upper secondary school (15–18 years of age) in this region (n = 986). Logistic regression was used to estimate odds ratios and their 95% confidence intervals (CI) when using Corah’s DAS as a dichotomous dependent variable.
Results: Twelve percent of the respondents reported a DAS score ≥13, indicating high DA. The strongest predictors for reporting high DA were anticipated pain at the dentist, ‘external control belief’, avoidance, low social motivation on oral health behaviour and sex. In this population, dental caries (DMFS), symptoms of psychological distress (HSCL-10) and self-motivation concerning oral health behaviour did not differ significantly between those reporting high DA (DAS ≥13) and those that reported low DA (DAS ≤12).
Conclusions: Severe DA in adolescence is a dental public health challenge and this study shows that DA is a hindrance to seeking dental treatment irrespective of dental status. Dental anxiety should have a higher focus on preventive oral health strategies and have a higher priority in public dentistry to avoid this problem to escalate into adulthood.