Dental fear and adult oral health in Australia

Jason M. Armfield, Gary D. Slade, A. John Spencer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

127 Citations (Scopus)


Abstract- Objective: This study aimed to investigate the association between dental fear and both dental caries and periodontal indicators. Methods: A three-stage stratified clustered sample of the Australian adult population completed a computer-assisted telephone interview followed by a clinical examination. Oral health measures were the DMFT index and its components, periodontitis and gingivitis. A total of 5364 adults aged 18-91 years were dentally examined. Results: Higher dental fear was significantly associated with more decayed teeth (DT), missing teeth (MT) and DMFT. There was an inverted 'U' association between dental fear and the number of filled teeth (FT). Periodontitis and gingivitis were not associated with dental fear. The association between dental fear and DMFT was significant for adults aged 18-29 and 30-44 years, but not in older ages. Dental fear was significantly associated with more DT, MT, and DMFT but with fewer FT after controlling for age, sex, income, employment status, tertiary education, dental insurance status and oral hygiene. Conclusion: This study helps reconcile some of the conflicting results of previous studies and establishes that dental fear is associated with more decayed and missing teeth but fewer FT. That people with higher dental fear have significantly more caries experience underlines the importance of identifying and then reducing dental fear as important steps in improving adult oral health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)220-230
Number of pages11
JournalCommunity dentistry and oral epidemiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished or Issued - Jun 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Anxiety
  • Caries
  • Dental fear
  • Epidemiology
  • Oral health
  • Periodontitis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dentistry(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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