Dental fear and oral health: cross-sectional evaluation of the cycle of dental fear theory among Brazilian undergraduate students

Valesca Doro Dias, Amanda Toneta Prux, Helena Silveira Schuch, Mariana Gonzalez Cademartori, Sarah Arangurem Karam, Vanessa Polina Pereira da Costa, Marcos Britto Corrêa, Marina Sousa Azevedo, Flávio Fernando Demarco


Aim: To evaluate the presence of dental fear among Brazilian undergraduate students and to observe whether the cycle of dental fear theory applies to this population. Materials and methods: A cross-sectional study were conducted with first year students of the Federal University of Pelotas, Brazil, in 2016. Sociodemographic data, dental fear, as well as the use of dental services and perception of caries and dental pain were collected through a self-administered questionnaire. The exposure was dental fear, and the outcomes included dental visit pattern, experience of dental caries and dental fear and self-rated oral health (SROH). Sociodemographic characteristics were included as aconfounding factor. To test the association between dental fear and the outcomes, Poisson regression models with robust variance were used, to estimate Prevalence Rations and Confidence Intervals. Results: 2,014 undergraduate students were evaluated and 22.4% of them reported dental fear. Those who reported dental fear had a higher prevalence of not visiting the dentist in the last year and, among those who visited, to have had only a pain/problem-oriented visit. Additionally, having fear increased the presence of dental caries, dental pain and negative SROH. Discussion: Our findings suggest the presence of the vicious cycle of dental fear in this population of undergraduate students in southern Brazil. Conclusion: This study provided evidence on the association between dental fear and the lower frequency of dental visit, dental caries, dental pain experience and negative SROH, corroborating with the cycle of dental fear theory.


Dental anxiety; Oral health; Dental caries; Dentist-patient relationship


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