European Archives of Paediatric Dentistry

, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 283–290 | Cite as

Parent-reported distress in children under 3 years old during preventive medical and dental care

  • T. M. NelsonEmail author
  • C. E. Huebner
  • A. Kim
  • J. M. Scott
  • J. E. Pickrell
Original Scientific Article



This study examined factors related to young children’s distress during preventive oral health visits. Additionally, associations between parent-reported child behaviour during the dental visit and during previous medical visits were tested.


One hundred twenty-two children under 3 years of age enrolled in a government insurance programme for low-income children were seen for examination, prophylaxis, and fluoride application at a university-based dental clinic. Child distress was rated by parents on a numerical rating scale.


The average age of children enrolled was 23.5 ± 7.3 months. The majority (55.7 %) were judged to have little or no distress pre-examination. Mild or no distress during the examination was reported for 42.6 % of the children and severe distress was reported for 39.4 %. Intensity of distress during the examination was not associated with the child’s age, gender, dental health, or previous experience with dental care. Distress was also unrelated to the caregiver’s education level or own dental health. Intensity of distress was associated with the child’s pre-dental examination distress and distress during prior medical examinations and injections.


Dental professionals can better anticipate child distress by assessing children before a dental examination and enquiring about previous medical experiences. Strategies to prepare parents and alleviate distress may help children cope with the preventive dental visit.


Stress Coping Infant Preventive dentistry 



This research was supported by grant U54DE019346, National Institute of Health, National Center for Dental and Craniofacial Research. The authors would like to thank Dr. Johan Aps for his critical review of the manuscript.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© European Academy of Paediatric Dentistry 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • T. M. Nelson
    • 1
    Email author
  • C. E. Huebner
    • 2
  • A. Kim
    • 1
    • 3
  • J. M. Scott
    • 1
  • J. E. Pickrell
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Pediatric DentistryUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  2. 2.School of Public Health and Adjunct Professor of Pediatric Dentistry School of DentistryUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  3. 3.Department of Oral Health SciencesUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  4. 4.Department of Psychology, and Oral Health SciencesUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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