Relatively little is known about the anxiety-provoking capacity of the various objects and situations characteristic of the dental setting. The aims of the current study were to establish a hierarchy of anxiety-provoking capacities of a large set of dental stimuli and to determine the differences in relation to gender, age, ethnicity, and level of dental trait anxiety. An additional aim was to derive an estimate of the number of stimuli to be presented to anxious patients in order to obtain full coverage of their dental fears. A questionnaire describing 67 potentially anxiety-provoking stimuli was constructed and presented to 960 adults. The results indicated that invasive stimuli (e.g. surgical procedures) were rated as the most anxiety provoking and that non-invasive stimuli (e.g. the dentist as a person) were the least anxiety provoking. The fear-evoking capacity of the dental stimuli varied with gender, age, ethnicity, and level of dental trait anxiety, whereas the rank order of these stimuli appeared to be independent of these factors. Furthermore, it appeared that the top 25 most anxiety-provoking objects and situations found in the current study contained only eight (28%) stimuli, which had been taken into account in previous research. The present findings support the need for assessment procedures using a broad spectrum of potentially anxiety-provoking stimuli.