Longitudinal Changes in Dental Fear and Coping Behavior in Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults With Cleft Lip and/or Cleft Palate

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Objective:To determine changes in dental anxiety levels of cleft lip and/or palate (CL/P) children and to explore the role of coping strategies in the development of their dental anxiety.Design:Prospective study.Setting:Free University Medical Center Amsterdam.Patients:A sample of CL/P children (at T1: n = 153, 4 to 18 years, 67 girls; at T2: n = 113, 7 to 21 years, 51 girls). Data were available at both time points for 102 children.Measures:Dental anxiety and coping strategies were assessed at the start of the study (T1; mean age: 9.8 years, standard deviation 4.1) and 3 years later (T2; mean age: 13.4 years, standard deviation 3.8). These scores were compared to a normative group of Dutch children.Main Outcome Measure(s):The severity of dental anxiety was indexed using the Parental Version of the Dental Subscale of the Children's Fear Survey Schedule. Dental coping strategies were assessed with the Dental Cope Questionnaire.Results:Overall, dental anxiety decreased to a level equal to normative scores of Dutch children. However, 5% of the children became more anxious. At T2, children used significantly fewer coping strategies. Children whose level of dental anxiety increased significantly used more destructive coping strategies than children whose level of dental anxiety decreased significantly or remained stable.Conclusions:Results suggest that dental anxiety levels of most CL/P children gradually decline over time. Whereas some coping strategies have the potential to be protective, more destructive coping strategies may put children at greater risk for developing and maintaining their dental anxiety.

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