2 min

Dental fear/anxiety describes the fear or anxiety a person faces towards the dental setting or dental treatment.

They can be associated with any triggers like the environment, people, needles, noise created by the devices used in the dental office and the instruments that dentist use.


  1. A traumatic past experience caused by a visit to the dentist.
  2. Post-traumatic stress disorder.
  3. Anxiety or depression.
  4. Fear for pain.
  5. Fear of the noises produced.
  6. Fear of being trapped in a closed space.
  7. Inability to avoid or procrastinate.
  8. Feeling of invasion of one’s private space.


  1. Nervous to speak or sit on the dental chair.
  2. Profuse sweating.
  3. Increased heart rate (tachycardia).
  4. Fainting.
  5. Panic attacks.
  6. Disturbed and denies the treatment.
  7. Never cooperative.

It is commonly seen among children who are younger than 3 years of age.

It is also seen in older children and adults. Studies show that females are reported with higher rates of dental fear than males.

An assessment of dental fear is necessary so that the dentist is aware of the patient’s discomfort regarding the treatment or set-up.

The dentist has to gain the trust of the patient by building up a conversation or modifying the procedures favoring the patient.


In the case of children, parental interference plays a major role in reducing the fear of children against dentist.

The behavior of a child is directly associated with dental fear. Behavior is an observable act that can be described in a similar way by more than one person.

Here is the list of factors associated with the child, dentist and the parent towards the child’s behavior.

Factors involving the child are:

  • Growth & development of the child.
  • Past dental experience.
  • Social and adaptive nature of the child.
  • Position of the child in the family.
  • Factors involving the parents:
  • Parent-child relationship.
  • Family influence.
  • Parents fear about dental treatment.
  • The attitude of the parent towards dental treatment.
  • Socio-economic status.

Factors involving the dentist:

  • Dental office environment
  • The personality of the dentist.
  • Duration of the appointment.
  • Doctor-patient communication.
  • Praise & rewards to the child for good behavior.
  • The skill of the dentist to comfort the child before a short & speedy treatment.


The child has to be conditioned by frequenting the dental visits and shortening the duration spent on the dental chair.

The child has to be managed for the dental procedures by following these methods like tell show do the technique, through communication, distraction using audiovisuals, voice control, hand over mouth technique & restraints.

Children who are not conditioned at a young age continue to experience dental fear even in their teens and adulthood.

An adolescent showing dental fear is directly related to their relationship with a parent.

Parents can be divided into the following groups:

  1. Authoritarian: These parents control children with no freedom. Children of these parents are more likely affected by dental fear. The children are shy, scared and less expressive.
  2. Authoritative: They control children with the freedom to some extent.
  3. Permissive: These parents do not control their children giving them full freedom. Children of these parents are lively and mature.


Thus anyone can experience dental fear in spite of their age, gender, background, growth & development.

In the case of children, the parent has to help the child overcome his / her fear by teaching them the need and importance of the treatment.

It is the duty of the doctor to evaluate the dental fear and do modifications in the treatment style to suit the patient.


Child dental fear and behavior: The role of environmental factors in a hospital cohort

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Dr Arun

Dr. Arun is a practicing dentist with more than 11 years of experience. Loves to blog and in constant search of new knowledge in dentistry and health niche.


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