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Are You Scared of the Dentist? Blame Your Parents!


Are You Scared of the Dentist? Blame Your Parents!

Researchers have discovered that parents, especially fathers, pass on their fear and anxiety about going to the dentist to their children.

Young children may develop fears of the dark or believe monsters live in the closet, fears they normally outgrow. But when it comes to going to the dentist, kids may develop a very real fear that’s much harder to get rid of.

Are parents to blame?

A new study by researchers at the Rey Juan Carlos University in Madrid, Spain, shows that when one family member is anxious or fearful about going to the dentist, that person increases the fear level of other family members.

Fathers play a key role

“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 one of the study’s authors América Lara Sacido.  

Mothers’ reactions to the dentist also influence a child’s reaction, whether positive or negative, but these reactions are overridden by the father’s attitude.

Show no fear

It may sound sexist, but researchers encourage fathers to show no fear when visiting the dentist. They encourage all parents, whether fathers or mothers, to stay relaxed when visiting the dentist to relieve their child’s anxiety.

By modelling relaxed behaviour, parents teach their children to relax when they go to the dentist, making the experience much more pleasant for everyone involved.

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Matthew Kadey, MSc, RDMatthew Kadey, MSc, RD