Young children need to be told the truth about what goes on in the dental chair if they are to overcome their fears.
A study from Queen Mary, University of London has found that children anxious about their visit respond well to a policy of honesty.
A selection of nine and ten-year-olds from Osmani Primary School in east London took part in the research using drama techniques from Alistair Campbell, leading drama lecturer at Queen Mary’s. Results from the ‘Do I have to go Project’ revealed some concerning views.
Dr Ben Roberts and Professor Ferranti Wong from the Institute of Dentistry found that many children are likely to form negative views about the dental experience through other children and their parents, without ever having been themselves.
Professor Wong said: “One pupil actually said ‘I’m scared, it really hurts’ but admitted they had actually never been to the dentist.”
Research suggests that fear is instilled from a parent’s experience of going to the dentist which could have repercussions on a child’s long-term dental health. These views much be discussed and dispersed if the dental industry is to reach as many patients as possible.
Promoting a positive message to children through colourful dental marketing is one way of helping anxiety levels among young people. Distributing helpful leaflets and posters in schools as well as through letterboxes could help to improve the dental industry’s image!
However, parents need to be targeted the most. By encouraging them to pass on a positive message about oral hygiene and visiting the dentist, children will be less afraid. Posters providing lists of sugar-free treats to be enjoyed after the dentist could make children look forward to their visit.
Fortunately the study also showed positive results, revealing that the majority of children didn’t mind their annual trip to the dentist and understood the reasons they needed to have a check-up.
Professor Wong added: “Be honest and explain that the procedures may be uncomfortable. 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.”