Children copy how their parents act. Sometimes it’s on purpose, like when they wear mom’s shoes or dad’s hats. Other times it’s unintentional, like learning to fear the dentist.
Research shows that parents pass along their fear of the dentist to their kids. We’re here to help break the cycle with tips and resources for you and your kids to be more comfortable visiting the dentist.
The Research on Parent & Child Dental Anxiety
The relationship between fear of the dentist, parents, and children has been studied around the world. A review of 43 studies across six continents on the subject found “a significant relationship between parental and child dental fear, particularly in children aged 8 years and younger.”
Fear of the dentist has real consequences for oral health. Research suggests those with dental phobia are more likely to have untreated cavities and missing teeth because they avoid going to the dentist. In fact, 1 in 5 Native Hawaiians who hadn’t been to the dentist in the last 12 months said it was because of fear.
It’s important to be aware of your fear of the dentist and its potential impact on your oral health and your child’s oral health. But what to do about it?
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Tips for Overcoming Fear of the Dentist
If you are making sure your children visit 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.
If you’re determined to face your fear, and helping your kids face it too, here are 5 things you can do to make your family’s visits more comfortable:
- Talk to the dental staff about what makes you anxious. The staff are familiar with dental anxiety and can do a variety of things to make your experience positive.
- Take your own comfort with you. Whether your headphones and happy-place playlist or your child’s favorite stuffed companion, everyone can use a friend to ease your stress.
- Stay positive. Be the model you want for your kids because they’re taking their cues from you.
- The sooner (by age 1!) and more regularly your kids visit the dentist, the more comfortable they’ll be. And now is the best time for you to schedule your next appointment.
- Take care of your teeth at home. Brush twice daily with fluoride toothpaste. Floss. Eat and drink less sugar. These simple daily habits will prevent tooth decay.
Overcoming fear of the dentist IS possible. We want you and your whole family to have healthy smiles. Regular dental checkups can keep your mouth healthier, which means less work and less time in the chair when you go!
Visit the special Fear Free section of our blog for even more tips for adults and kids to take control of their dental experience.