Fear of Dentists
Do you put off visits to the dentist for even a routine visit because the very thought of going to the dentist fills you with fear? You are hardly alone. Approximately 16 percent of people are estimated to have a fear of the dentist, and the numbers are higher for women than men.1 But unless you don't mind the idea that your child endures the same type of anxiety every time that dental chair is approached, you will have to avoid exposing these feelings to your offspring. According to new research, parents transmit their charged emotions and fear over dentist visits to their children, unwittingly passing down and instilling this same fear in them.2
The study, which was conducted at Rey Juan Carlos University in Madrid, Spain, examined not only how parents can project their fears onto young children, but also the uniquely different roles played in this process by mothers and fathers. The subjects were 183 children between the ages of seven and 12 and their parents. This research underscored the fact that a parent's anxiety toward the dentist is readily spread to their child, which has been noted in several earlier studies. Therefore, even if just one parent has an unhealthy fear of the dentist, the likelihood is high that the child will develop that same fear. And, in fact, the level of anxiety will be increased throughout the entire family.
This particular experiment also explores the influence a father has in passing down worries about dental visits. Most frequently, it would appear, the fear is transmitted by the mother, and the father may act as an unintentional catalyst. The children involved in the study were highly focused on the reactions of their father especially, using him as a barometer of emotions. If the father remained calm despite the mother's obvious fear, the child would take their cue paternally and have lower levels of anxiety. If, on the other hand, the father began to show signs of stress, the child's anxiety levels would increase along with that of the mother.
Since skipping dental checkups is not really an option for maintaining oral health, this study really just confirms the common sense notion that parents of young children must subdue their own dental fears--or at least avoid any obvious stress reactions--when taking the kids to the dentist. It also suggests that perhaps the parent with no dental anxiety, or the one who exhibits less of it, should be the one in charge of discussing the importance of going to the dentist and taking the child for all dental appointments.
Of course, if you go to your doctor and say that you need to reduce your stress level before your child's upcoming visit to the dentist, it's highly likely that you will promptly be provided with a prescription for an anti-anxiety medication. But in fact, you don't need to go to your doctor. As it turns out, your dentist can provide you with all the Valium you need.3 But along with quelling your fears, these drugs come with side effects including sleepiness, dizziness, headaches, confusion, gastrointestinal problems, blurry vision, and more.4
If you would prefer to diminish your feelings of anxiety more naturally and safely, there are plenty of good options. Regular exercise is a good physical technique for lessening the body's stress reaction. Meditation is an ancient mental tradition you can learn to keep stress and its effects on your body to a minimum. Plus, it will provide you with a method for relaxing and calming yourself during anxiety-provoking moments, including trips to the dentist's office.5
Another option is taking dietary supplements that contain herbs proven to reduce stress and anxiety. The combination of ashwagandha and L-theanine can effectively reduce anxiety and "take the edge" off. The bottom line is that with the right forms of natural assistance in stress relief, you will be ready to face the dentist as well as any other fears that may negatively impact your life.
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- 1. "Fear of dentist linked with age, sex and socio-economics." The University of Adelaide. 4 May 2006. Accessed 20 November 2012. http://www.adelaide.edu.au/news/news11661.html
- 2. "Fear of the Dentist Is Passed On to Children by Their Parents." Science Daily. 16 November 2012. Accessed 19 November 2012. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121116085552.htm
- 3. "Learn About Oral Health and Wellness." Delta Dental 25 May 2010. (Accessed 24 Nov 2012.) http://oralhealth.deltadental.com/harvard/22,HD30
- 4. "Mental Health Medications." National Institute of Mental Health. 9 February 2012. Accessed 20 November 2012. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/mental-health-medications/complete-index.shtml#pub7
- 5. "How to relieve stress and anxiety naturally." Squidoo. Accessed 20 November 2012. http://www.squidoo.com/stress_natural