Fear of dental visits is a known problem in paediatric dentistry and experts generally agree that parents play an important role in the development of dental anxieties in children. However, a new study on the specific roles of the mother and the father in this has found that fathers in particular could contribute to reducing dental anxieties in children.

In accordance with previous studies, the survey of 183 schoolchildren aged seven to 12 from Madrid and their parents found that levels of fear among family members are closely interlinked. Children of parents who are afraid of dental visits are most likely to experience the same phobia, according to the study.

In addition, the study revealed that the father’s dental fear is a mediating variable in the relationship between the mother’s and child’s fear scores.

“Children seem to mainly pay attention to the emotional reactions of the father when deciding if situations at the dentist are potentially stressful,” said América Lara Sacido, lead author of the study at the King Juan Carlos University’s Department of Dentistry. Thus, transfer of fear from the mother to the child could be influenced by the father’s reactions before and during dental examinations, Sacido’s research team stated.

In order to reduce dental anxieties in children, the researchers recommend that parents and fathers in particular appear as relaxed as possible at the dentist. “Through positive emotional contagion in the family, the right attitude can be achieved in the child so that visiting the dentist is not a problem,” Sacido concluded.

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