New survey says kids' anxiety about dentists may be learned trait from parents

May 6, 2015

Contrary to some parents' popular belief, their children aren't born with a fear of the dentist; rather, the apple may not fall far from the tree. A new nationwide survey nfrom Delta Dental Plans Association finds children may be picking up on their parents' fear of visiting the dentist.

Contrary to some parents' popular belief, their children aren't born with a fear of the dentist; rather, the apple may not fall far from the tree. A new nationwide survey nfrom Delta Dental Plans Association finds children may be picking up on their parents' fear of visiting the dentist.

The survey of parents with children ages 12 and younger finds that nearly half (48 percent) of parents say they are nervous about going to the dentist, and roughly the same number (47 percent) of their children share the sentiment. While moms (55 percent) are more nervous than dads (40 percent) ahead of a dental appointment, they tend to have an easier time getting their kids to go to the dentist with 19 percent of moms saying it's one of the hardest things to do vs. 37 percent of dads.

"It's easy for kids to pick up on their parents' anxieties when it comes to the dentist so parents should try to stay positive when talking with their children about dental visits," said Dr. Bill Kohn, DDS, Delta Dental Plans Association's vice president of dental science and policy. "It's also important for parents responsible for taking children to the dentist to remain relaxed and calm during visits to help kids feel at ease."

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A routine dental visit is one of the most essential oral health habits for healthy teeth, but while many kids are apprehensive before a dental visit, nearly four in 10 (36 percent) are actually fearful. The top reason parents say children are anxious to see the dentist is the possibility of a painful visit (54 percent). Other reasons include concerns the visit might take too long (28 percent), it may require additional dental work (25 percent) and the child doesn't like his or her dentist (17 percent).

"If children have a bad experience, it could jeopardize their willingness to visit the dentist throughout childhood and into adulthood,"  Kohn added.

Whether children are a little nervous or downright afraid, Delta Dental offers  these tips dentists can provide to parents to help their children feel more comfortable going to the dentist:

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    Start young.

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