Are you afraid of visiting the dentist? You may have a condition called dentophobia. 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. On average, the survey found that nearly 30 percent of children are afraid to visit the dentist, but when their parents also fear the dentist that number jumped to almost 40 percent.
During National Mental Health Month, Delta Dental of Illinois offers parents and caregivers 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 dental visit routine.
• 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 going to check their smile and count their teeth.
• 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.
“Parents need to help children understand why visiting the dentist is so important and help make their visits as comfortable as possible,” Dr. Spadoni said. “Kids who have negative experiences at the dentist may be less inclined to make regular visits as teenagers and grown adults.”
The Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation recently launched the 2013 “Dentist By 1” campaign to educate parents about the benefits of taking their children to the dentist by age 1 and to encourage them to schedule a visit. For more information about the campaign, visit www.dentistby1.com.