Why are people afraid of the dentist? Observations and explanations

Laura Beaton, Ruth Freeman, Gerald Michael Humphris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)
2 Downloads (Pure)


Objective: The aim of this review was to explore the peer reviewed literature to answer the question: ‘Why are people afraid of the dentist?’ Method: Relevant literature was identified by searching the following on-line databases: PubMed,
PsycInfo, the Cochrane Library and Google Scholar. Publications were extracted if they explored the causes and consequences of dental fear, dental anxiety or dental phobia. Results: The research evidence suggests that the causes of
dental fear, dental anxiety or dental phobia are related to exogenous factors such as direct learning from traumatic experiences, vicarious learning through significant others and the media, and endogenous factors such as inheritance and personality traits. Each individual aetiological factor is supported
by the evidence provided. Conclusions: The evidence suggests that the aetiology of dental fear, anxiety or phobia is complex and multifactorial. The findings show that there are clear practical implications indicated by the existing
research in this area: a better understanding of dental fear, anxiety and phobia may prevent treatment avoidance.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMedical Principles and Practice
Issue number4
Early online date20 Dec 2013
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014


  • Dental anxiety
  • Dental phobia
  • Aetiology


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