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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The modified dental anxiety scale: UK general public population norms in 2008 with further psychometrics and effects of age

Gerry M Humphris1*, Tom A Dyer2 and Peter G Robinson2

Author Affiliations

1 Health Psychology, Bute Medical School, University of St Andrews, UK

2 Department of Oral Health and Development, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK

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BMC Oral Health 2009, 9:20  doi:10.1186/1472-6831-9-20

Published: 26 August 2009



The Modified Dental Anxiety Scale (MDAS) is a brief, self-complete questionnaire consisting of five questions and summed together to produce a total score ranging from 5 to 25. It has reasonable psychometric properties, low instrumental effects and can be integrated into everyday dental practice as a clinical aid and screen for dental anxiety. The objectives were to (i) produce confirmatory evidence of reliability and validity for the MDAS, (ii) provide up-to-date UK representative norms for the general public to enable clinicians to compare their patients' scores, (iii) to determine the nature of the relationship between dental anxiety and age.


Telephone survey of a representative quota sample of 1000 UK adults (>18 years of age) conducted between 7–21 April, 2008.


Attrition of potential participants was high in the recruitment process, although bias was minimal. Estimated proportion of participants with high dental anxiety (cut-off score = 19) was 11.6%. Dental anxiety was four times greater in the youngest age group (18–39 yrs) compared to older participants (60+ yrs), controlling for sex, social class and self-reported dental visiting behaviour confirming previous developed-world reports.


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. Dental anxiety was high in younger compared to older people.