Are childhood oral health behaviours and experiences associated with dental anxiety in adolescence?

Jennifer Clow*, Kate Northstone, Constance Hardwick, Mark Dermont, Tom Dudding

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


Background: Dental anxiety is associated with untreated dental caries. Understanding which childhood behaviours or experiences have the strongest association with later dental anxiety may help focus preventive strategies, subsequently limiting the burden of dental caries and anxiety. Aim: The aim of this study was to explore whether behaviours and experiences during childhood were associated with adolescent dental anxiety. Design: Data were obtained from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). Multivariable logistic regression was used to explore associations between adolescent dental anxiety and childhood behaviours and experiences. 1791 participants answered questions about oral health behaviours and experiences at 8 years of age and dental anxiety questions aged 17 years. Results: Children with experience of invasive dental treatment were more likely to have dental anxiety at 17 years of age than those who had not experienced dental treatment (OR 1.63; 95% CI: 1.12, 2.37; p =.011). Irregular dental attenders in childhood had over three times the odds of dental anxiety by adolescence, compared with regular attenders (OR 3.67 95% CI: 1.52, 8.88; p =.004). Conclusions: Adolescent dental anxiety is associated with invasive treatment and irregular dental attendance in childhood. A history of irregular attendance or invasive treatment may serve as a useful predictor when considering dental anxiety in young adult patients. Early preventive care supports good attendance and oral health. These actions may have secondary effects of reducing future dental anxiety.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)372-381
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Paediatric Dentistry
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are extremely grateful to all the families who took part in this study, the midwives for their help in recruiting them and the whole ALSPAC team, which includes interviewers, computer and laboratory technicians, clerical workers, research scientists, volunteers, managers, receptionists and nurses. The UK Medical Research Council and Wellcome Trust (Grant ref. 217065/Z/19/Z) and the University of Bristol provided core support for ALSPAC. This publication is the work of the authors who serve as guarantors for the contents of this paper. M. Dermont and J. Clow are HM Forces Officers who have no commercial interests and have received no payment for conducting this work. T. Dudding and C. Hardwick received support from the UK National Institute for Health Research Academic Clinical Fellowship scheme.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. International Journal of Paediatric Dentistry published by BSPD, IAPD and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • adolescence
  • behaviours
  • childhood
  • dental anxiety
  • experiences


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