Do you feel anxious about going to the dentist? How anxious? It can be hard to truly express your level of dental anxiety to anyone, including a dentist you are considering working with. That’s what dental anxiety scales are good for — they allow you to express your dental anxiety in a way that your dentist can understand and respond to.
If you are trying to find a way to tell your dentist just how anxious you are, a dental anxiety scale can give you the tool you need.
The First Dental Anxiety Scale
The first dental anxiety scale was designed by doctor Norman L. Corah. It was reported in 1969, and has since become known as Corah’s Dental Anxiety Scale. The scale asks some basic questions designed to illicit fear-related responses from people with dental anxiety. For example, the first question is “If you had to go to the dentist tomorrow, how would you feel about it?” The second questions is “When you are waiting in the dentist’s office for your turn in the chair, how do you feel?”
There are five possible responses to the question, ranging from “relaxed” to “So anxious that I sometimes break out in a sweat or almost feel physically sick.” The remaining two questions ask about a dentist getting ready for drilling and receiving a scale and polish (regular oral hygiene visit).
The scale is designed to separate people with very high levels of anxiety from those with normal levels of anxiety. The exam is scored so that each response gives a score from one to five. A person with a score of 9-12 has moderate dental anxiety. A 13-14 indicates a high level of anxiety. A score of 15-20 indicates severe anxiety or phobia.
Creating a Dental Fear Survey
Although many people were happy with Corah’s work, some others said that it had many shortcomings. In particular, it focused only on a person’s feelings of fear, and not on their fear-related conduct, which is, arguably, as important or more so. When dental anxiety leads to avoiding the dentist, people suffer.So in 1973, Professor Ronald Kleinknecht developed his dental fear survey (DFS).
The dental fear survey includes 20 questions related to three categories of dental anxiety. The survey asks about avoidance behaviors such as when fear makes a person postpone making an appointment or cancelling an appointment they’ve already made. It also focuses on some of the physiological responses to dental fear, such as muscle tension (which is why one of the benefits of sedation dentistry is less muscle soreness after a dental visit), accelerated breathing, perspiration, and accelerated heartbeat. Finally, it also focuses on specific stimuli that often cause people to have a stress response, including the smell of the dentist’s office, the sight of the needle, seeing the drill, hearing, the drill, and more.
A Simpler Approach
Although the DFS is the most commonly used method for gauging dental fear around the world, many people think it is too complicated and wanted to get back to a simpler approach that could be delivered more quickly. That’s why researchers at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland revisited Corah’s Dental Anxiety Scale. They modified it with two key changes. First, they simplified the language. In Corah’s Scale, the question about scaling and cleaning is 41 words long. In the Modified Dental Anxiety Scale, the question is only 15 words long. That’s a reductio of almost two thirds.
Another important modification is the addition of a question about needles. Since trypanophobia is a major component of dental anxiety, this is a significant change.
Let Us Help You Overcome Anxiety
If you have dental anxiety and it is making it hard for you to get dental treatment, we can help. Sedation dentistry can help most people with serious levels of dental anxiety.