A growing body of literature suggests that pain is a crucial factor in the development and maintenance of apprehension toward dental treatment. These findings are often at variance with dental practitioners' impressions that routine dental treatment is virtually painless. Data from this study suggest that routine dental treatment is seldom perceived by regular patients as painless but is seen as low in intensity of pain compared with mild laboratory stressors. These data are interpreted as supporting the hypothesis that dental treatment is relatively painless. However, this conclusion conflicts with data supporting the importance of pain in dental fear, and possible reasons for the discrepancy are presented.
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