Dental caries, age and anxiety: factors influencing sedation choice for children attending for emergency dental care

Pauline Carson, Ruth Freeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: The aim of the study was to examine how physical (dental caries) and psychosocial (age, dental anxiety and dental health behaviour) factors, associated with child and parent, influenced dentists' sedation choice when a child presents in pain. Methods: 600 parents whose children were aged between 5 and 11 years took part: 200 attended for routine dental care (RDC); the remaining 400 attended as emergency patients and were offered either dental general anaesthesia (DGA) or relative analgesia (RA). The subjects were approached and invited to take part. The researcher was blind as to the child's pattern of dental attendance and the type of sedation offered. All parents and children completed selfreported ratings of dental anxiety. The children's teeth were examined to determine past and present dental caries experience. Results: The results showed that children who were offered DGA had greater experience of dentinal caries, were younger and dentally anxious. The children offered RA were older, had a higher frequency of brushing their teeth with fluoride toothpaste and were also dentally anxious. Discriminant analysis showed that 2 canonical functions provided clear categorisation of the three treatment groups. Function 1 was a physical (dental caries) factor, which was related to the child's experience of dentinal caries. Function 2 was a psychosocial factor, which was related to the child's age, dental anxiety and frequency of tooth brushing. A greater proportion of the variance in the treatment offered was explained by Function 1, suggesting that the most important factor in the decision to offer DGA was dentinal caries. Function 2 was of lesser importance. Conclusions: The findings have implications for the type of sedation offered to children presenting for emergency care. These children may not otherwise receive treatment and the need to provide less anxiety provoking forms of sedation must be promoted. By doing so, parents who have only brought their children when in pain may take advantage of RDC and the treatments offered to prevent and control dental caries and anxiety in their children.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-36
Number of pages7
JournalCommunity Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2001


  • Dental anxiety
  • Dental general anaesthesia
  • Relative analgesia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dentistry(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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