When Kids Dread the Dentist

Anxiety about dentistry in children linked to higher anxiety among parents

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Fear of the dentist has been mocked in countless films and TV shows. However, it's a very real concern for many people – especially children. Being afraid of the dentist can lead to long-term problems with oral health.

Therefore a recent study aimed to find out more about kids' dentist fears.

The researchers found that a parent's fear of the dentist – especially dad's – can increase the child's anxiety. Parents can help children feel better about the dentist by not showing any anxiety themselves.

"Be brave at the dentist - for your kids."

The study, led by Maria Carrillo-Diaz, at the Department of Dentistry at Rey Juan Carlos University in Madrid, Spain, aimed to learn more about children's fear of going to the dentist. Researchers already knew from past studies that parents may have a strong influence on children's fear of the dentist. But does it matter to a child whether it's mom or dad who's more afraid?

The researchers included 161 children, aged 7 to 12, and their parents in the study to find out. The children were asked questions about their oral health, how they felt about their oral health and how much anxiety they felt about the dentist. The researchers found that children who had low scores on their emotional well being about oral health also had a poorer perception of their oral health and higher levels of dental anxiety.

In general, the girls tended to report more often that they had lower emotional well being regarding their oral health.

In boys, however, being afraid of the dentist was not linked to having poorer emotional well being about their oral health. But a significant influence in the children's anxiety about the dentist in general did, in fact, come from their parents.

The more one person in the family feared the dentist, the more anxiety the other family members felt about dentistry.

In this study, the fathers attitude toward the dentist had a bigger impact on the children's anxieties. However, this study was conducted in Spain, so cultural factors may prevent these findings about the father from applying to families outside of Spain.

Regardless, the authors noted that an important way to reduce children's anxiety about the dentist is to ensure parents do not show any unease or anxiety about dental appointments.

The study was published in the November issue of the International Journal of Paediatric Dentistry. Information regarding funding and disclosures was unavailable.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 24, 2012
Last Updated:
November 28, 2012