Dental anxiety: a patient's personality traits and comorbidity with
other psychiatric disorders.

Thesis event information

Date and time of the thesis defence

Place of the thesis defence

Auditorium 1, Building PT1 of the Department of Psychiatry (Peltolantie 17)

Topic of the dissertation

Dental anxiety: a patient's personality traits and comorbidity with
other psychiatric disorders.

Doctoral candidate

Doctor of Dental Surgery DDS Harri Halonen

Faculty and unit

University of Oulu Graduate School, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry

Subject of study



Professor Heikki Murtomaa, University of Helsinki


Professor Pirkko Riipinen, University of Oulu

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Dental anxiety: a patient's personality traits and comorbidity with other psychiatric disorders.

People with dental anxiety are not just dentally anxious but show a high level of comorbidity with other anxiety-related disorders, depression and numerous other psychiatric disorders. Also, some personality traits are closely related to dental fear and its course over time suggesting that dental anxiety is rather patient-originated than treatment-originated. However, studies on the subject are still quite rare.

Thus, the aims of the present study were to examine i) whether personality traits differ between persons with and without dental anxiety ii) if dental anxiety is associated with general anxiety other than dental anxiety iii) if dental anxiety is associated with depressive symptoms iiii) and systematically review previous studies about dental anxiety and its comorbid specific phobias and other relevant psychiatric symptoms and disorders. The study population consisted of 880 young adult university students in Finland.

Participants with dental anxiety had a significant positive correlation with neuroticism and a minor negative correlation with extraversion in the 181-item personality test NESTA, a Finnish version of Neo-Pi personality test. Dental anxiety was associated with depressive symptoms in female participants and with clinical anxiety in both genders as measured with Beck's Depression Inventory and Beck's Anxiety Inventory tests.

Sixteen original articles including a total of 6 486 adult patients were systematically reviewed. The main findings indicated that a high level of dental anxiety is associated with a high level of other comorbid phobias other than dental phobia, including depression, mood disorders and a variety of other psychiatric disorders.

In conclusion, the results support the hypothesis that neuroticism is the most significant factor of the “big five” personality factors (Neuroticism, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness and Openness to experience) to predict the outcome of dental fear. Dental anxiety was associated with general anxiety and depressive symptoms, and female gender predicted a higher level of dental anxiety and also a stronger correlation between dental anxiety and general anxiety, as well as between dental anxiety and depressive symptoms. The systematic review of the previous literature revealed the comorbidity of dental anxiety with other psychiatric disorders, although the number of original studies was limited.

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Last updated: 1.3.2023