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Don't Pass on Your Dentophobia

By Jill Hamilton on May 21, 2013 in Kid's Health

Scared girl at Dentist's teeth checkup

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 health conducted on behalf of Delta Dental of Iowa. On average, the survey found that nearly 11% of Iowa children are afraid to visit the dentist. But when their parents also fear the dentist that number jumped dramatically.

We advise parents who fear visiting the dentist to try to keep those feelings to themselves to avoid passing them on to your children. It's important that the parent or caregiver responsible for taking children to the dentist remains relaxed and calm.

During National Mental Health Month, we offer parents and caregivers 3 simple tips to help children feel more comfortable in the dentist's chair:

• Start young: It's recommended that children visit the dentist within six months of getting their first tooth – and no later than their first birthday. Starting at a young age allows children and parents to establish trust with a dentist and begin a routine of regular dental visits.

• Keep it simple and positive: If children ask questions before a visit to the dentist, avoid using words that could make them scared, such as drill, shot or filling, or counseling them that it won't hurt, since they often aren't aware it could hurt in the first place. Instead, explain that the dentist is simply going to check their smile and count their teeth. Try not to discuss any negative experience that you might have had so children can form their own opinion through personal experience.

• Call ahead: Tell the dentist ahead of time that your child may be anxious about the visit. Most pediatric dental offices will have toys or music that children can focus on instead of the appointment itself, helping them relax and making a trip to the dentist a fun and enjoyable experience.

Parents need to help children understand why visiting the dentist is so important and help make their visits as comfortable as possible. Kids who have negative experiences at the dentist may be less inclined to make regular visits as teenagers and grown adults.