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Never Fear, the Dentist Is Here

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WebMD Feature

Dec. 20, 2000 -- When it came time to take two of her three children to the dentist, Donna Redman, a bank recruiter from New York, would have her hands full.

 

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But that was when her young sons, Kyle, 5, and Kellman, 7, were petrified of the dentist. "They were scared of the needles and the whole idea of a stranger going into their mouth and doing work," she tells WebMD.

 

Now she drives to a pediatric dentist in a different town, who is skilled at dealing with anxious kids. "He makes them feel at ease and lets them know that they have nothing to be scared of. He is very gentle and makes my sons feel comfortable by telling them what he is about to do and that as long as they cooperate, it's not going to hurt," Redman says.

 

Her kids are far from alone. In fact, for a variety of reasons -- from fear of the unknown to fear of drills or past trauma -- many children dread a visit to the dentist.

 

That's why researchers from Scotland set out to determine what makes a child panic when faced with, in the kids' opinion, the evil incarnation of the tooth fairy. The study findings appear in a recent issue of the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy.

 

In the study of 60 children aged 7-10 or 11-14, a little more than half were found to be anxious, and just under half were deemed nonanxious.

 

Those children who were anxious about visiting the dentist were more likely to have experienced traumatic and painful dental visits in the past, such as having a tooth pulled at a younger age, than their less fearful counterparts.

 

In addition, a sensitive dentist also appeared to be a factor, the study shows. Although most children -- anxious or not -- rated their past dentists as fairly sensitive, the serene kids were more likely to describe their dentists as having empathy.

 

Redman points out that she's not afraid of the dentist. However, in the study, anxious kids were also more likely to have anxious mothers, reports researcher Ellen Townend of the department of psychology at the University of Glasgow.

 

Barry Jacobsen, DMD, is the Redman family dentist. "We always start with behavior management [but] if child is not manageable, we use sedation," he says. In fact, he sedates Kyle and Kellman at times to make the procedures go more quickly and smoothly.

 

According to the study, many dentists are still wary of using anesthesia with young children, but certain pain management techniques can be safe -- and useful.

 

"A child's biggest anxiety is usually fear of the unknown," says Jay Levy, DDS, a dentist in New York, who sees a fair share of young patients.

How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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