If Dad Fears Dentist, Kids Tend to Follow Suit.
A new study from the University of Madrid highlights the important role that parents play in the transmission of dentist fear in their family.
Fear of visiting the dentist is a frequent problem in pediatric dentistry. Previous studies had already identified the association between the fear levels of parents and their children, but they never explored the different roles that the father and the mother play in this phenomenon.
América Lara Sacido, one of the authors of the study, said that “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.”
Researchers analyzed 183 children between 7 and 12 years and their parents with findings supporting previous studies which found that fear levels amongst fathers, mothers and children are interlinked.
Study findings, found in the International Journal of Pediatric Dentistry, confirmed that the higher the level of dentist fear or anxiety in one family member, the higher the level in the rest of the family.
The study also reveals that fathers play a key role in the transmission of dentist fear from mothers to their children as they act as a mediating variable.
“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,” said Lara Sacido.
This finding suggests that transmission of fear from the mother to the child, whether it be an increase or reduction of anxiety, could be influenced by the reactions that the father displays when going to the dentist.
The implications of these results suggest the need to involve mothers and especially fathers in dentist fear prevention campaigns; and to make fathers to 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,” said 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.”