Do you fear your next dental check-up? By all accounts you’re not alone, and it is very likely your dental phobia or dental anxiety started early when you were a child. Most experts agree that our parents’ own perceptions and opinions about dentistry play a major role in the development of our dental anxieties as children.
A new study from Madrid, Spain sheds some light regarding parenting roles and the contributions parents can provide in reducing dental fears in children. Interestingly, it was found that fathers can play a much more significant role in decreasing dental phobia or anxiety than mothers.
The comprehensive survey given to 183 children, ages 7 to 12, and their parents, found that fear or anxiety among family members were closely connected. Children whose parents were afraid of dentists and dental visits were much more likely to suffer from dental phobia than those children whose parents did not share those same fears.
It is significant to note that the lead author of the study, América Lara Sacido of the King Juan Carlos University’s Department of Dentistry, said that children paid much more attention to the emotional reactions of their fathers vs. their mothers when deciding if a certain dental situation would cause them harm. Be sure to click on the link to the study at the end of this blog for more information.
What Parents Can Do to Relieve their Child’s Dental Anxiety
According to the American Academy for Pediatric Dentistry, it is recommended that children see their dentist for an initial cleaning and evaluation by their 1st birthday. Untreated caries or tooth decay can cause problems with eating, speaking, playing, learning and overall development. In addition, seeing their dentist every 6 months establishes a predictable point of reference for children, reduces costly future procedures and puts into place a routine for dental care that your child will acquire and use for the rest of their life.
Easier Said than Done
Nowadays, it is fairly easy to insure that dental treatment does not cause physical pain. But if you’re like most parents, you want to also spare them as much emotional pain as possible. To make sure future dental visits go smoothly here are some suggestions that may alleviate anxiety prior to their dental visits:
- Tell your child about their upcoming dental appointment just a day ahead of time. Anxiety levels rise when a child knows weeks in advance.
- Don’t mention shots, sharp, needles, pain, or any other words that may create anxiety. Avoid stating what the child can expect from his dental visit, and especially avoid describing the visit using negative descriptions, i.e., telling your child that it will “not hurt” sets up an expectation that the visit could “potentially” hurt.
- For visits that require more than a cleaning, state in simple terms that there is a boo-boo in their mouth that the dentist will be fixing. The less detail the better. If they ask more questions, simply say that the dentist needs them to be a big boy or girl and open real wide.
- Offer a small reward if they have been real good and cooperative. Perhaps a small trip somewhere special, or have them pick out something fun to do after the appointment.
Another tip is that it is always extremely helpful to let younger siblings see dental work being done on their older brother or sister so that they will develop trust and have a positive example to follow.
Most importantly, dental professionals remind parents not to mention any of their own negative experiences with dentistry to their children. With a positive, relaxed attitude you can make your child’s next dental visit both fun, routine and “no big deal.”
That’s all for now, wishing you a joyous and healthy holiday season!
Mark W Langberg, DDS, MAGD
26206 West 12 Mile Road, Suite 303
Southfield, MI 48034
Tel: (248) 356-8790