In the present study the mean CFSS-DS score for all the children was 23.0 which falls in the range of fear scores (22.1 – 33.25) observed by previous studies [10–13, 15, 16]. However other studies reported higher mean fear scores of 37.8 and 45.9 for fearful children [10, 22]. No significant difference was found between boys and girls in the total fear scores that is supported by previous studies [13, 16, 22], however other studies done on schoolchildren reported that girls have more fear scores than boys [11, 12].
The Arabic version of the CFSS-DS has a high internal consistency (0.86), which is in accordance with previously reported values, which ranged from 0.83 to 0.92 across several different languages [11–15]. This indicates a high correlation between answers to different items on the scale .
In this study, factor analysis was performed on the Arabic version of the CFSS-DS to determine the factor structure of the instrument and to determine the factor accounting for the majority of the variance in dental fear, as measured by the CFSS-DS. Four factors were extracted: Factor 1, ‘fear of usual dental procedures’; Factor 2, ‘fear of health care personnel and injections’; Factor 3, ‘fear of strangers’; and Factor 4, ‘fear of general medical aspects of treatment’. This finding is consistent with those obtained in populations in Bosnia  and the United States (data reported by Alesalo et al. ), as well as in a population of Dutch children with dental fear . In Finland , the Netherlands , Japan , and India , three factors were identified, and the total variance ranged from 54% to 65%.
The factor constructs found in the present study are relatively consistent with previously reported constructs; for example, ‘fear of general, less invasive dental treatment’ (Factor 1), ‘fear of medical aspects’ (Factor 2), ‘fear of drilling’ (Factor 3), and ‘fear of strangers’ (Factor 4) were observed in Dutch children with dental fear . In Bosnia and Herzegovina, ‘fear of the usual dental practice’ (Factor 1), ‘fear of doctors and white uniforms’ (Factor 2), ‘fear of extreme situations’, ‘injections, choking, and having to go to the hospital’ (Factor 3), and ‘fear of items related to strangers’ (Factor 4) were found . However, slight differences were observed in Finnish children , where the identified factors were ‘fear of highly invasive dental procedures’ (Factor 1), ‘fear of potential victimization, strangers, choking, and hospital’ (Factor 2), and ‘fear of less invasive procedures’ (Factor 3). Almost the same three factor constructs were found in Japan, but the rank order between the second and third factors differed . However, three factors with different constructs were identified in India . Variations in factor components among distinct populations may reflect cultural, social, and demographic differences. Dental care systems in developing countries, such as India , Bosnia , and some Arabic countries, often vary from those of Western, developed countries. For example, oral health education programs are deficient in developing nations. In addition, parents usually take their children to the dentist for treatment of oral diseases, but rarely for prevention. Moreover, some people may only seek dental treatment when in pain. These variables may influence children’s experience and perception of fear.
Although factor sequence, number, and content differed among studies, it was observed in the present study as well as in other studies [14, 16, 22] that most items loaded relatively highly on the first factor, indicating one primary dimension: ‘fear of dental treatment in general’ (found in the present study, in Dutch children with dental fear , and in Bosnian children ) or ‘fear of highly invasive dental procedures’ (found in children in Japan, Finland, and the Netherlands [11, 15, 16]). As ten Berge et al.  concluded, the CFSS-DS essentially measures ‘a one-dimensional concept’ of dental fear.
Notably, although ‘injections’ received one of the highest fear rankings by children in this study as well in other studies [5, 11, 15, 22], ‘injections’ did not load heavily on Factor 1 and only moderately loaded (0.46) on Factor 2 (‘fear of health care personnel and injections’). This is consistent with findings of other studies where ‘injections’ loaded strongly (0.61) with Factor 2, ‘fear of medical aspects’, in Dutch children with dental fear , or had a good loading (0.55) with Factor 3, ‘fear of extreme situations’ (e.g., injections, choking, and having to go to the hospital), in Bosnia . This may be explained by the fact that fear of injections is more closely associated with medical rather than dental treatment, since paediatric dentists do not allow the child to see the injection syringe. Moreover, paediatric dentists use distraction and substituted words, such as ‘sleepy juice’, when administering dental anaesthesia to children to keep them from realizing they are receiving an injection. In addition, some authors reported that general dentists may not regularly use local anaesthesia during restoration, or may only use hand instruments, when treating children [3, 23]. In addition, factor analysis of general fear scales suggests that dental fears are related more to lack of control than to \components of medical treatment, such as injection and injury .
The small difference in factor pattern between different studies, including the present study, seems to indicate that children differentiate between aspects of dental treatment. This is supported by the findings of ten Berge et al. , which indicated that separate concepts might exist within the general concept of dental fear. In the present study, part of the children’s fear may have been associated with a fear of doctors, dentists, and injections (Factor 2); this may be attributable to parenting in the Arabic communities, as some parents use the threat of injections, doctors, or dentists as a method of child discipline. ‘Fear of strangers’ (Factor 3) was identified as an important component of the children’s fear. This finding supports those of previous studies in which items related to strangers and being touched or looked at comprised one factor with [11, 15, 22] or without items related to choking [14, 17].
In the present study ‘fear of strangers’ was located in Factor 2 in girls while, it was located in boys in Factor 5. Similar results were found in the Netherlands, where items related to strangers comprised a separate factor for Dutch girls, but not boys . This indicates that fear of strangers plays a greater role in the fear construct for girls. This gender difference reflects the differences between girls and boys in responding to fearful aspects of dental treatment. Thus, the components of dental visits preferentially aversive to each gender should be considered during dental treatment and discussed in dental education.
This study has several limitations. In previous studies the questionnaire is often completed before treatment. This is contrary to the CFSS-DS design as it is supposed to be filled after treatment to avoid the false results as a child may express anticipatory anxiety prior to treatment . Order effects may have affected participant responding on the CFSS-DS. Administering the questionnaire after a dental procedure may have directed participants to report less dental fear, as significant reduction in dental fear after treatment was found by Klaassen et al.  (CFSS-DS score was 45.1 before treatment and dropped to 32.2 after treatment). Type of dental procedure performed may have an impact on participants response. However, dental treatment with or without local anesthesia was not related to the CFSS-DS scores [12, 19]. The sample was obtained from a clinical university context, which limits the generalizability of the present findings. Further studies on more representative samples of schoolchildren are necessary to understand dental fear in children who do not go to dentists and those of different socioeconomic levels. Additional studies are needed to evaluate fear in children with behaviour problems. In order to provide further evidence for the validity of the Arabic version of the scale, the scale should be compared with other self-report measures that assess dental fear in children. Future research is also needed on samples obtained from schools in different Arabic countries. In addition, future studies should include more subjects to be able to study factor structure according to different age groups.
In the Middle East, there are 22 Arabic countries containing more than 360 million people. In addition to immigration, Arabic peoples mingle with other countries worldwide as a result of scholarship, diplomatic positions, and other missions. These individuals usually relocate with their family and children to a foreign country and live there for several years. During this period, their children may require dental treatment; thus, it would be beneficial if dental practitioners worldwide were knowledgeable of the fear norms among Arabic-speaking children. However, there is a lack of Arab participation in research about dental fear in children. This study provides the Arabic version of the CFSS-DS, which has not been previously presented in the literature. Through use of this version in further research, fear norms in Arabic-speaking children can be identified, and Arabic participation in fear research can be enriched.
Although differences in cultures exist, the CFSS-DS appears to be able to measure different aspects of dental fear in Arabic-speaking children. Children can differentiate between different items pertaining to dental fear. By using the CFSS-DS, the dentist may recognize which item(s) of the scale reported by the child are related to a particular child’s fear. Accordingly, the dentist can approach the child and guide his/her behaviour during the dental visit. It is recommended that this scale be used as a basic evaluation tool in addition to other assessment tools, such as the caries risk assessment and dietary assessments, for paediatric patients.