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Variations in dental anxiety among middle-aged and elderly women in Sweden: a longitudinal study between 1968 and 1996.

Journal article
Authors Catharina Hägglin
Ulf Berggren
Magnus Hakeberg
Tore Hällström
Calle Bengtsson
Published in Journal of dental research
Volume 78
Issue 10
Pages 1655-61
ISSN 0022-0345
Publication year 1999
Published at Institute of Community Medicine, Dept of Primary Health Care
Institute of Odontology, Department of Endodontology/Oral Diagnosis
Pages 1655-61
Language en
Keywords Age Distribution, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Analysis of Variance, Chi-Square Distribution, Dental Anxiety, epidemiology, psychology, Female, Humans, Longitudinal Studies, Middle Aged, Patient Dropouts, psychology, statistics & numerical data, Statistics, Nonparametric, Surveys and Questionnaires, Sweden, epidemiology, Urban Population, statistics & numerical data
Subject categories Other Medical Sciences


Cross-sectional studies have shown that older individuals are significantly less dentally anxious than younger ones. However, research has not been able to show if this is a cohort effect or an effect of fear declining with age. If it is a cohort effect, dental anxiety among the elderly may pose a greater-than-expected problem for the providers of dental services. With the exception of longitudinal studies in children and a three-year follow-up on adults, no truly longitudinal epidemiological studies concerning dental anxiety have been performed. The aim of this project was to investigate how dental anxiety changes with aging. In a longitudinal population study of women in Göteborg, Sweden, starting in 1968, 1462 women aged 38 to 54 participated. A representative subsample of 778 women took part in a psychiatric examination where an investigation of dental anxiety was included. The same questions were also included when these women were re-examined in 1974, 1992, and 1996. Three hundred seventy-five women were still eligible for investigation in 1996. In 1968-69, 48 (12.8%) of the participating women assessed themselves as "very afraid" or "terrified" when visiting the dentist, and in 1996 the frequency was 21 (5.6%) among the same women. In 1968-69, 180 women (48%) reported no dental anxiety when visiting the dentist, and 28 years later the frequency was 230 (61%). In the three youngest age groups, dental anxiety decreased significantly (p < 0.001) over the 28-year period. Older compared with younger women reported significantly less dental anxiety, and this was an age effect rather than a cohort effect. Thus, this longitudinal study supported the hypothesis that dental fear, like many other general and specific phobias, declines with age.

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