UK norms for dental anxiety


The 2009 adult dental survey conducted in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland was the 5th decennial survey undertaken in the UK.    It was based on a two-stage cluster sample and of 12,054 eligible households  7,233 participated.  Of the 13,509 adults in these households 11,382 participated (84%).

The survey consisted of a clinical examination and a questionnaire; dental anxiety was assessed using the Modified Dental Anxiety Scale (MDAS).   The tool consists of 5 questions and the responses are summed to provide a score, which ranges from a minimum of 5 (no dental anxiety) to a maximum of 25 (extreme dental anxiety). For those with scores above a threshold of 19 is it likely that a dental practitioner would consider using additional approaches to manage the patient.

  • The estimate proportion of those with a score ≥ 19    was 11.6%.  A summary of the scores is shown in the table below: –

[table id=41 /]


The full paper also provides complete tables  for the point and interval estimates of percentile ranks for MDAS scores for both males and females together with links to a computer program.

The authors concluded:-

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.


The 5 question MDAS has been shown to be a valid and reliable tool and is simple to use so could be readily used in practice in. It has also been shown that use of the tool does not increase patient anxiety and that completion can reduce state anxiety in the practice setting.


UK population norms for the modified dental anxiety scale with percentile calculator: adult dental health survey 2009 results. Humphris G, Crawford JR, Hill K, Gilbert A, Freeman R. BMC Oral Health 2013, 13:29 (24 June 2013)

Modified Dental Anxiety Scale (MDAS)

MDAS computer program.

Dental Elf 20th Sept 2012 – Measures of Children’s dental anxiety

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