Dental anxiety shares similar characteristics with many clinical anxiety disorders, and this is especially the case with other specific fears and phobias. These often debilitating conditions comprise several different dimensions, including cognitive, emotional, behavioural and physiological components. In addition, dental anxiety and fear are associated with a range of aversive health consequences. A number of indices have been developed to measure dental anxiety and fear, but their sheer number is indicative of a continuing problem with delineating the concept of dental fear and anxiety and how these should best be measured. This paper addresses the widespread confusion in the use of relevant terminology and aims to trace and assess the theoretical underpinnings of a selection of the most widely used self-report measures. It is concluded that the most popular measures of dental anxiety and fear lack adequate or sufficiently explained theoretical foundations. This is of concern given that these scales, by their very nature, serve to define the concept they aim to measure.
Keywords: anxiety, assessment, dental fear, scale development