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Honesty Cures Children's Dentist Fears, Study

Update Date: Jun 11, 2013 01:52 PM EDT

Kids hate going to the dentist.  However, a new study reveals that honesty is the best policy when it comes to helping kids cope with their fear about going to the dentist.

Researchers said that being truthful about what their time in the daunting dentist chair will involve would help diminish worries in even the most anxious child.

The latest study involved children aged nine and 10 from Osmani Primary School in east London.

 Researchers had the children express themselves though performance and games as well as using real dentistry equipment to recreate a visit to the dentist.

As part of the experiment, the children re-designed a universal medical questionnaire for anxiety, reducing the standard eight questions down to five and adding in a section to draw pictures.  Researchers then used this newly designed anxiety questionnaire to survey 100 of their fellow classmates to find out about their own personal experiences of going, or not going, to the dentist.

Surprisingly, researchers found that the majority of children expressed that they didn't mind going for check ups and that they understood the reasons why they should go.

"We wanted to find out why some children don't go to the dentist," researcher Alistair Campbell said in a statement.

"What surprised us was how the children we worked with emphasized that they were not 'stupid' and they knew they had to go to the dentist, but they didn't want their parents to pretend to them that it wouldn't hurt or that the mouthwash tastes nice just because it is colored pink," he said.

"They just wanted them to be honest. In fact during the drama role play we discovered that it was often the adult/parent that transferred their anxiety of going to the dentist onto their child," Campbell added.

Researchers said that one child whose never actually been to the dentist said that he was scared to go because "it really hurts". Researchers said this clearly shows that this fear was really about a lack of communication.

"The dentist and the adult have a responsibility to communicate to the child. Be honest and explain that the procedures may be uncomfortable," researcher Professor Ferranti Wong said in a news release.

"It is important that children are encouraged to go to the dentist and it's essential that they learn about oral and dental hygiene at an early age. The key message is tell, show, do and most importantly be honest and don't lie," Wong said.

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