Survey Suggests Kids Learn Fear of Dentist from Parents
A new survey out this week from Delta Dental finds that children may be picking up on their parents' fear of visiting the dentist.
It's no surprise that many kids learn their fear of the dentist from others, including their parents. A closer look helps reveal more about those fears.
The top reason parents say children are anxious to see the dentist is the possibility of a painful visit (54 percent). Other reasons include concerns the visit might take too long (28 percent), it may require additional dental work (25 percent) and the child doesn't like his or her dentist (17 percent).
"It's easy for kids to pick up on their parents' anxieties when it comes to the dentist so parents should try to stay positive when talking with their children about dental visits," said Dr. Bill Kohn, DDS, Delta Dental Plans Association's vice president of dental science and policy.
The survey of parents with children 12 and under finds that nearly half (48 percent) of parents say they are nervous about going to the dentist, and roughly the same number (47 percent) of their children share the sentiment. Moms (55 percent) are more nervous than dads (40 percent) ahead of a dental appointment.
Delta Dental offers some tips for a successful trip to the dentist:
- Start young. It's recommended that children visit the dentist within six months of getting the first tooth – and no later than the first birthday. Starting at a young age allows children and parents to establish a relationship with a dentist and helps start a routine of visiting the dentist regularly.
- Talk positively. If children ask questions before a visit to the dentist, avoid using words that could make them scared, such as drill, filling or shot. Unless they specifically ask if the procedures will be painful, avoid comforting kids by saying the dentist won't hurt them. Instead, explain that the dentist is simply going to check their smile and count their teeth.
- Play dentist at home. Before a dental appointment, play dentist and patient with children. Open your child's mouth and count his or her teeth. Be sure to avoid making any drilling noises and keep the experience positive. Let your child play dentist to a toy or stuffed animal, pretending to brush and count its teeth.
- Call ahead. Tell the dentist ahead of time that your child may be anxious about the visit. Most pediatric dental offices will have toys or music that children can focus on instead of the appointment itself, helping them relax and making a trip to the dentist a fun and enjoyable experience.
Parents pass many traits onto their kids, with a little work, a fear of the dentist doesn't have to be one of them.