Don't Pass on Your Dentophobia
Study finds parents who are afraid of dental visits often have kids who develop the same fear
OAK BROOK, Ill. (May 1, 2013) - Parents who are afraid to visit the dentist may pass the same fear on to their children, possibly keeping them from getting routine dental check-ups that are important to promote healthy teeth and a lifetime of good oral health habits.
That's one of the key findings from a survey of children's oral health1 conducted on behalf of Delta Dental, the nation's leading dental benefits provider. On average, the survey found that nearly 30 percent of children are afraid to visit the dentist. But when their parents also fear the dentist that number jumped to almost 40 percent. Conversely, just 24 percent of children whose parents are unafraid of the dentist were still fearful of dental visits themselves.
"Parents who fear visiting the dentist should try to keep those feelings to themselves to avoid passing them on to children," said Dr. Bill Kohn, DDS, Delta Dental's vice president for dental science and policy. "It's important that the parent or caregiver responsible for taking children to the dentist remains relaxed and calm."
The top reason parents say their children are afraid to visit the dentist is due to painful or sensitive teeth (17 percent). Other explanations include the noise and smell (11 percent), drills and dental equipment (10 percent), and shots and needles (9 percent).
During National Mental Health Month, Delta Dental offers parents and caregivers three simple tips to help children feel more comfortable in the dentist's chair:
"Parents need to help children understand why visiting the dentist is so important and help make their visits as comfortable as possible," Dr. Kohn said. "Kids who have negative experiences at the dentist may be less inclined to make regular visits as teenagers and grown adults."
As with other vitamins and minerals, it's important to get enough, but not too much. When young children whose teeth are still developing under their gums (up to about age 9) get too much fluoride, their teeth may erupt with faint white lines or patches called dental fluorosis. The CDC has reported an increase in dental fluorosis over the past couple of decades. Inappropriate swallowing of toothpaste and children living in fluoridated areas that also receive fluoride supplements are believed to play a major role in this increase.
Nearly 45 percent of caregivers do not know if their water supply is fluoridated.1 And although 75 percent of people in the United States with access to community water supplies enjoy the benefits of fluoride, there are still some communities that choose not to add the mineral to their water. To find out the fluoridation status of your local water supply, contact your city water department or your local water provider.
1Morpace Inc. conducted the 2013 Delta Dental Children's Oral Health Survey. Interviews were conducted nationally via the Internet with 926 primary caregivers of children from birth to age 11. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of error is +-3.2 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.