Dentists’ perception of patients’ fear was significantly higher ( p < ) than patients’ reports for all fear categories ( Fig. 3 ). The largest differences were in dentists’ estimates of patients who were “Not afraid” (% compared with patient reports of %) or “Very afraid/terrified” (% v. %). Dentists with less experience (≤ 13 years) also estimated significantly higher levels of fear in patients than experienced dentists. They perceived that % of patients are “Very afraid” or “Terrified” compared with more experienced dentists who reported % and % of patients with those levels of fear ( p < ) ( Table 4 ). With respect to sex, female dentists estimated more patients as “Somewhat afraid” compared with male clinicians ( % v. %) ( p < ). A difference was noted based on community size, with dentists in communities of under 50,000 people estimating that more patients are a “Little afraid” than practitioners in larger cities ( p < ).