Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

UK population norms for the modified dental anxiety scale with percentile calculator: adult dental health survey 2009 results

Gerry Humphris1, John R Crawford2, Kirsty Hill3, Angela Gilbert4 and Ruth Freeman56*

Author Affiliations

1 Health Psychology, University of St Andrews, Scotland, UK

2 School of Psychology, University of Aberdeen, Scotland, UK

3 Dental Public Health, University of Birmingham, England, UK

4 Dundee Dental School, University of Dundee, Scotland, UK

5 DHSRU, University of Dundee, Scotland, UK

6 Dental Public Health, NHS Tayside, Scotland, UK

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BMC Oral Health 2013, 13:29  doi:10.1186/1472-6831-13-29

Published: 24 June 2013



A recent UK population survey of oral health included questions to assess dental anxiety to provide mean and prevalence estimates of this important psychological construct.


A two-stage cluster sample was used for the survey across England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The survey took place between October-December 2009, and January-April 2010. All interviewers were trained on survey procedures. Within the 7,233 households sampled there were 13,509 adults who were asked to participate in the survey and 11,382 participated (84%).


The scale was reliable and showed some evidence of unidimensionality. Estimated proportion of participants with high dental anxiety (cut-off score = 19) was 11.6%. Percentiles and confidence intervals were presented and can be estimated for individual patients across various age ranges and gender using an on-line tool.


The largest reported data set on the MDAS from a representative UK sample was presented. The scale’s psychometrics is supportive for the routine assessment of patient dental anxiety to compare against a number of major demographic groups categorised by age and sex. Practitioners within the UK have a resource to estimate the rarity of a particular patient’s level of dental anxiety, with confidence intervals, when using the on-line percentile calculator.

Dental anxiety; Representative survey; Psychometrics; Percentiles; On-line calculator