Is Dental Anxiety A Learned Behavior?

Is Dental Anxiety A Learned Behavior?

HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT OF the impact your own dental anxiety can have on your kids? If you struggle with some level of dental anxiety, odds are you’ve picked some of that up from your parents. Odds are also good that you may pass it on to your own children. That’s why the first step in making sure that your children are comfortable with the dentist is to take a look at your own personal views on dentists and oral healthcare.

Breaking The Dental Anxiety Cycle

According to a new study, by the University of Madrid, children most often look to their fathers when gauging potentially stressful situations. It appears that if a father is nervous about dental visits, his children pick up on his cues (no surprise there)—even unintentional ones—and may follow suit. The findings include you too, mom. The International Journal of Pediatric Dentistry confirms that the higher the level of dental anxiety in any family member, the higher the level in the rest of the family. Other studies show that women more often demonstrate positive habits and attitudes towards dentistry—so it may be up to you to set the good example!

Dentistry Has Changed

The “old days” of dentistry are long gone. Modern dentistry makes visiting the dentist a comfortable experience. We encourage the parents of our patients to try these tips for overcoming anxiety:

  1. Bring a friend or family member with you. Whatever your age, sometimes it’s nice to have a friendly face with you if you’re anxious.
  2. Distract yourself. Do you have some favorite songs on your phone or MP3 player? What about a handheld game you enjoy? Bring it along! Kids aren’t the only ones who can be calmed down by distraction.
  3. Talk it over. We dentists are accustomed to dealing with nervousness. If you’re uneasy, just say so!

Some Tips For Your Kids

Alright, what if your kid is showing signs of dental anxiety, even though you’re a happy camper in the dentist’s chair? Sometimes it doesn’t come from you, but there are still some things you can do to help. Parenting magazine offers 8 great tips, including doing some role-play to make it fun and familiar, and avoiding bribery. Something we want to bring special attention to is the importance of using only positive language when you explain what the dental visit will entail. Tell them the dentist will count their teeth and check their smile, and nothing else. Read more about it here. Do you have a recommendation for overcoming dental anxiety? Something that’s worked either for yourself or your kids? We’d love to hear about it! Leave a comment below!

Thanks for trusting us with your family’s oral health!

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