Prevalence of dental anxiety in children and adolescents globally: a systematic review with meta-analyses

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Barbara Monteiro Grisolia
  • Ana Paula Pires Dos Santos
  • Izabel Monteiro Dhyppolito
  • Heather Buchanan
  • Branca Heloisa Oliveira

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Department of Community and Preventive Dentistry Faculty of Dentistry Rio de Janeiro State University – UERJ Rio de Janeiro Brazil
  • Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences University of Nottingham Nottingham UK


Background: Dental anxiety (DA) negatively impacts oral health–related quality of life, and patients with DA usually require more dental treatment time.

Aim: To describe the global prevalence of DA in children and adolescents and to examine the influence of individual factors (age, sex, and caries experience) and variables related to DA measurement on pooled prevalence.

Design: Systematic review with meta-analyses of observational studies published between 1985 and 2020 (PROSPERO CRD42014013879).

Results: Searches yielded 1207 unique records; 224 full-text articles were screened, and 50 studies were used in the qualitative and quantitative synthesis. No study was considered as having high methodological quality according to ‘The Joanna Briggs Institute assessment tool’. Overall pooled DA prevalence was 23.9% (95% CI 20.4, 27.3). Pooled prevalence in preschoolers, schoolchildren, and adolescents was as follows: 36.5% (95% CI 23.8, 49.2), 25.8% (95% CI 19.5, 32.1), and 13.3% (95% CI 9.5, 17.0), respectively. DA was significantly more prevalent in preschool children (one study) and schoolchildren (two studies) with caries experience and in female adolescents (one study). The scale used for DA assessment was shown to influence pooled prevalence in preschoolers and adolescents.

Conclusion: DA is a frequent problem in 3- to 18-year-olds worldwide, more prevalent in schoolchildren and preschool children than in adolescents.


Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Paediatric Dentistry
Early online date15 Aug 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Aug 2020


  • adolescent, child, dental anxiety, preschool, prevalence

ASJC Scopus subject areas