Dental fear in Australia: who’s afraid of the dentist?

Objectives: This study aimed to describe both the prevalence of dental fear in Australia and to explore the relationship between dental fear and a number of socio-demographic, oral health and provider preference variables.

Methods: The study used a telephone interviewing survey with interviews predominantly conducted in 2002. A random sample of 7,312 Australian residents, aged five years and over, was obtained from all States and Territories. Data were weighted to ensure that the sample for each stratum more accurately represented the population of the corresponding stratum, with post-stratification by age and sex.Results: Subjects rating themselves as very afraid of the dentist comprised 11.3% of the sample, while 4.8% of the sample rated themselves as quite afraid. A higher percentage of females than males reported high fear (HF). Adults aged 40 had the most dental fear with those adults aged 80+ having the least. There were also differences between low fear (LF) and HF groups in relation to socio-economic status (SES), with people from higher SES groups generally having less fear. People with HF were more likely to be dentate and have fewer remaining teeth. There was little difference between fear groups in provider preference or in insurance coverage. Conclusions: This study found a high prevalence of dental fear within a contemporary Australian population. Numerous differences existed between individuals with HF and LF in terms of both socio-demographic characteristics and oral health status but few differences existed in insurance coverage or provider preference.

J Armfield*

Presented at the Colgate Australian Clinical Dental Research Centre Research Day, 20 August 2004, Adelaide, Australia

Note: * indicates presenter

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