Children copy how their parents act, what they say, and what they do. They take on their parents’ habits – good and bad. Some of it is intentional – when they wear mom’s shoes or dad’s hats. Some habits and traits are unintentional, like a parent’s fear of the dentist.
Overcoming fear of the dentist IS possible! We’re sharing information to help curb the transmission of dental fear from you to your child. Plus, we’re sharing tips on how to get your child to the dentist when that’s the last place you want to go!
The Research Behind Parent Dental Anxiety
A 2004 study from the University of Washington confirmed that 20 percent of children have dental fear. Another study from Rey Juan Carlos University of Madrid conducted in 2011 concluded that parents with dental anxiety should be very careful expressing anxiety over the dentist around their children.
This research study from Spain focused on children ages 7 to 12. They found that the greater the anxiety is in one member of the family, the higher it will be for the rest of the family members. It’s safe to say that parents with dental anxiety have children who are prone to take on their parent’s dental anxiety. And, families with one member who fears the dentist are likely to have other family members with anxiety about going to the dentist.
The relationship between fear of the dentist, parents, and children has been studied around the world. There was even a study conducted at Central Queensland University to summarize the findings of all the studies that have been conducted over the years.
“Forty-three studies were included from across the six continents. The studies ranged widely with respect to research design, methods used, age of children included and the reported link between parental and child dental fear.”
As a parent, it’s important to be aware of your anxieties to prevent sharing them with your children. When it comes to oral health, there’s an added pressure. Parents with anxiety or fear of the dentist are also more likely to have children with dental caries. Parents who have a fear of the dentist are less likely to consider taking their children. “These findings may help to devise interventions that will prevent or alleviate children’s [fear of the dentist].”
Tips for Overcoming Fear of the Dentist
If you ensure your children make it to the dentist at least twice a year, you’re on track. If taking your child to the dentist is more difficult because of your personal dental fear or anxiety about the dentist, consider your resources.
Is there a relative or friend who can take the child to the dentist for you? There’s no shame in looking for help here – if your child gets to the dentist, you’ve done your part.
Always remember that open communication is key to addressing untreated cavities and overcoming fear of the dentist.