Date of Award
Dissertation - Restricted
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Counseling and Educational Psychology
The purpose o f the study was to develop and validate a parent rating scale to assess dental fear in children between three and eight years o f age. A review o f the research indicated a lack o f empirically supported assessment tools for children in this age group. Dentists have reported dental fear to be the primary interfering factor in securing regular patient care with adults. Other studies found that the majority o f adults reported their dental fear began in childhood. As children are now going to the dentist earlier in life, the identification and subsequent elimination o f dental fear early on may assist in increasing the regularity o f patient care.
This study was completed at a private pediatric dental practice in Racine, Wisconsin, and an inner city practice in Milwaukee, Wisconsin through Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Participants included 126 children between 3 and 8 years o f age and their parents or guardians. Parents completed the Dental Behavior Questionnaire which included 11 key items to be rated on a visual analog scale. Parents also completed a scale assessing general anxiety and health concerns. A select group o f children completed the Children’s Fear Survey Schedule: Dental Subscale and a child version o f the Dental Behavior Questionnaire.
The research results found the Dental Behavior Questionnaire to be a psychometrically sound instrument with a high level o f internal consistency for the 11- item scale. The test-retest and inter-rater reliability were similarly elevated. Approximately two thirds o f the children had not yet experienced an invasive procedure such as injections, drilling or placement o f sealants. A strong correlation was noted between parent ratings and self-report measures for children seven years o f age, but this relationship did not hold for children under seven years old.
The child’s general anxiety was a strong predictor o f dental anxiety. Although the parental level o f anxiety and quality o f care were statistically correlated with a child’s dental fear, they accounted for little variance in the child’s level o f dental fear. There were no effects for gender or age noted for the scale. There were no children who met the outlined DSM:IV criteria necessary for the identification o f a specific phobia. The DBQ is considered to be a useful screening instrument given the ease of administration and objective scoring procedure.