To report the prevalence of dental anxiety in Swedish 15-year-olds over a 30-year period (1973-2003) and how dental anxiety relates to oral health.
The study used a repeated cross-sectional design.
In 1973, 1983, 1993, and 2003, random samples of 96 to 107 15-year-olds were selected from the city of Jönköping, Sweden, 405 overall.
Dental anxiety (DA) and its association with oral health (caries, gingivitis, plaque, fillings) were analysed (a = 0.05).
The proportions of dentally anxious during the period were 38% (n = 37) in 1973, 26% (n = 28) in 1983, 18% (n = 15) in 1993 and 13% (n = 12) in 2003 a clearly decreasing trend with time. The strongest predictor of DA was gender, with girls reporting higher levels of DA. In three of the four examination years, adolescents with DA had more filled permanent surfaces than those without DA. Those with DA had a greater caries experience only in 1973. No associations were found between DA and plaque or gingivitis. Multivariate logistic modelling confirmed that DA decreased over time and that girls had higher levels of DA.
This study showed a clear decrease in DA in 15-year-olds over a 30-year period, with a greater proportion of girls being more dentally anxious. The results also indicate a relationship between DA and oral health; the dentally anxious having more filled surfaces and, only in 1973, more decayed tooth surfaces.