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Elevated state-anxiety prior to oral surgery is common and is associated with increased post-operative pain. This paper presents a psychological model of predicting elevated anxiety prior to dental surgery. Elevated anxiety and intraoperative stress can be predicted by measuring trait-anxiety. However, prediction may be improved by using a situationally specific measure of trait-anxiety, and by taking the patient's coping style into account. Thirty-nine patients undergoing wisdom-tooth extraction took part in the study. The Corah Dental Anxiety Scale was a better predictor of pre-operative anxiety than the STAI trait-anxiety scale. Coping style was measured by means of the Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale in conjunction with scores on trait-anxiety to define three coping style groups: sensitizers (high-anxious), truly low-anxious, and repressors who verbally deny anxiety. Two oral surgeons rated patient intra-operative state on 100 mm visual analogue scales. These ratings indicate that 'repressors' exhibit significantly more stress responses than the truly low-anxious group, in spite of similar (low) trait-anxiety scores. It is concluded that a situationally specific measure of trait-anxiety is the most appropriate predictor of differential state-anxiety elevations prior to oral surgery. Repressive coping style may be a confounding factor, in terms of predicting elevated anxiety, since some people verbally deny being anxious but express it behaviourally.


Journal article


Br J Med Psychol

Publication Date



62 ( Pt 4)


371 - 380


Adolescent, Adult, Anxiety, Denial (Psychology), Female, Humans, Male, Repression, Psychology, Repression-Sensitization, Social Desirability, Stress, Physiological, Tooth Extraction