International Journal of Paediatric Dentistry 2010; 20: 242–253

Aim.  This study aimed to investigate the role of dental fear (DF) and other personal characteristics in relation to dental behaviour management problems (DBMP).

Design.  A study group of 230 patients (7.5–19 years old; 118 girls), referred because of DBMP, was compared to a reference group of 248 same-aged patients (142 girls) in ordinary dental care. Patients and their parents independently filled in questionnaires including measures of fear and anxiety, behavioural symptoms, temperamental reactivity, and emotion regulation.

Results.  Study group patients referred because of DBMP differed from the reference group in all investigated aspects of personal characteristics. In the multivariate analyses, DF was the only variable with consistent discriminatory capacity through all age and gender subgroups. Aspects of anxiety, temperament, and behavioural symptoms contributed, but differently for different subgroups and at different levels of dental fear.

Conclusions.  Among older children and adolescents, DF deserves to be re-established as the single most important discriminating variable for DBMP at clearly lower scores than commonly used. Further research should focus on the different patterns of DBMP development, considering various personal characteristics that may trigger, maintain, or exacerbate young patients’ vulnerability to DF and DBMP.