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A Child's Fear of the dentist May Have Come From Parents: Study

Update Date: Nov 17, 2012 05:42 AM EST

It is not uncommon to see children starting to cry at the very mention of visiting a dentist. According to a new study, the fear of visiting a dentist may have been passed on to the child by the family members and the study analyzes the different roles that mothers and fathers might play in such kind of an emotional transmission.

The study conducted by scientists at the Rey Juan Carlos University of Madrid emphasizes on the significant role played by parents in the transmission of dentist fear in their family.

While there have been studies previously which have associated fear levels of parents and their children, this is the first study to explore the different roles played by the father and the mother, Medical Xpress reports.

"Along with the presence of emotional transmission of dentist fear amongst family members, we have identified the relevant role that fathers play in transmission of this phobia in comparison to the mother," América Lara Sacido, one of the authors of the study explained.

For the study, the researchers analyzed 183 children aged between 7 and 12 years and also their parents in the Autonomous Community of Madrid.

The results of the current study were the same as those of the previous studies and confirmed that fear levels amongst parents and children are associated.

According to the authors, the level of dentist fear or anxiety in one family member was directly proportional to the fear level in the rest of the family.

Also, according to the study, fathers played a key role in the transmission of dentist fear from mothers to their children as they act as a mediating variable, the report said.

"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 Lara Sacido.

Also, the transmission of the fear, or the reduction or increase in anxiety from the mother to the child also may depend on the father's reaction towards the dentist.

With the help of the findings, the authors outline the two most important factors: the need to involve mothers and especially fathers in dentist fear prevention campaigns; and to make fathers attend the dentist and display no signs of fear or anxiety.

"With regard to assistance in the dental clinic, the work with parents is key. They should appear relaxed as a way of directly ensuring that the child is relaxed too," notes the author. "Through the positive emotional contagion route in the family, the right attitude can be achieved in the child so that attending the dentist is not a problem," she concludes.

The study was published in the International Journal of Paediatric Dentistry.

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