If Parent Fears Dentist, Children Might, Too


October 15, 2002

By Nancy Volkers
InteliHealth News Service

Parents who are anxious about visiting the dentist are more likely to have children who are too, according to Italian researchers.

The researchers asked 378 parents about their own dental anxiety, their child’s dental fears, whether the child had a bad “first experience” at the dentist, and how many times their child had visited the dentist.

Parents who admitted to dental-related anxiety were more than twice as likely to have children who had dental anxiety. Children with problematic first experiences at the dentist were nearly 20 times more likely to be anxious about dental visits, compared with other children. However, this anxiety tended to fade significantly after about four subsequent visits.

It has been estimated that up to 40 million Americans avoid seeing the dentist due to anxiety. The American Dental Association suggests talking about your fears with your dentist, planning appointments for times when you won’t feel rushed or under pressure, and bringing a portable headset and your favorite music to listen to while you’re in the dentist’s chair. Sedation techniques are also available for adults and children. People with extreme anxiety about visiting the dentist should contact a counselor or other health professional.

The study appears in the October issue of Acta Odontologica Scandinavica.

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