Parents Pass the Fear of Dentist to Their Children

First Posted: Nov 17, 2012 04:13 AM EST

Going to the dentist is no fun.  You are not alone to cringe at the thought of visiting a dentist. Paediatric dentists are feared the most. 

According to a new study, the fear of visiting dentists is passed on to children by the parents. The study done by scientists at the Rey Juan Carlos University of Madrid confirms the emotional transmission of dentist fear among family members and analyses the different roles that mothers and fathers might play.

Prior to this, studies have identified a link between the fear levels of parents and their kids. But the kind of role father and mother play in this phenomena was not known.

America Lara Sacido, one of the authors of the study explains that "along with the presence of emotional transmission of dentist fear amongst family members, we have identified the relevant role that fathers play in transmission of this phobia in comparison to the mother."

In order to prove the hypothesis, the scientists analyzed nearly 183 children between 7 and 12 years and their parents in the Autonomous Community of Madrid.

They noticed that the results matched the previous studies that highlighted the link between fear levels of parents and kids.

The authors confirmed that the higher the level of dentist fear or anxiety in one family member, the higher the level in the rest of the family.

Through the study it was known that fathers play a main role in transmitting this dentist fear from mothers to their children as they act as a mediating variable.

"Although the results should be interpreted with due caution, children seem to mainly pay attention to the emotional reactions of the fathers when deciding if situations at the dentist are potentially stressful," states Lara Sacido.

The father's reactions at the dentist's office influences the transmission of fear from the mother to the child, whether it be an increase or reduction of anxiety.

Two most salient features have been highlighted by the researcher: the need to involve mothers and especially fathers in dentist fear prevention campaigns; and to make fathers attend the dentist's clinic and display no signs of fear or anxiety.

"With regard to assistance in the dental clinic, the work with parents is key. They should appear relaxed as a way of directly ensuring that the child is relaxed too," notes the author. "Through the positive emotional contagion route in the family, the right attitude can be achieved in the child so that attending the dentist is not a problem," she concludes.

The details of the study were published in International Journal of Paediatric Dentistry.

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