Children copy how their parents act, what they say, and what they do. Sometimes they model our good behaviors…and sometimes they pick up on our fears and anxieties and act accordingly. Being afraid of the dentist is one example.
Dental anxiety is real, but we have tips for you to help your child understand the importance of going to the dentist and not be afraid to do so. It’s hard to imagine how to get your child to the dentist when that’s the last place you want to go, but even if you’re afraid of the dentist, your child doesn’t have to be.
The Research Behind Parent Dental Anxiety
According to a University of Washington study, 20 percent of children are afraid to go to the dentist. Another study of 7- to 12-year-olds concluded that parents with dental anxiety should be careful expressing anxiety over the dentist around their children. The greater the anxiety is in one member of the family, the higher it will be for the rest of the family members.
As a parent, it’s important to be aware of how you address your anxieties to 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 take your children 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 asking a friend or relative to take your child for you! Remember that the earlier a child visits the dentists, the better. Children should see the dentist by the age of one.
Avoid taking your kids to your own dental appointments. Also avoid telling “war stories” about extractions, root canals, or other negative experiences that will trigger anxiety in you, and them!
Remember that communication is key. Being open and honest with your child’s dentist about your own dental fears could help them make sure that they take the extra step of making you feel comfortable and at ease when you take your children to their appointments. And consider selecting a provider who specializes in pediatric dentistry and is adept at working with children who may be scared just because it’s a new experience.