The next time your heart goes into panic mode at the sound of the dentist's drill, you can blame your parents.
According to a study by researchers from Rey Juan Carlos University of Madrid, the "emotional transmission" or fear of the dentist is passed on from parent to child.
"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," said América Lara Sacido, one of the authors of the study in a press release.
Turns out that fathers who feared the dentist were more likely to pass on these fears and stresses on their children. On top of this, this fear is passed on from mother to child as well, but the mother is also influenced by her husband.
Often dentist fears start with bad experiences, the feeling of not being in control or just being uncomfortable, according to Richard Sine of WebMD.com. One study found that about five per cent of people have severe dental fear, according to the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.
Having a fear of the dentist can also be classified under dentophobia or odontophobia, depending on the person. And the author adds that surveys have found that the even the most dreaded procedures, like a root canal or wisdom tooth extraction, had patients more freaked out before the procedure than during it.
For some, getting over the fear is out of the question, but for most there are things that can ease the fear. Distracting yourself by playing mental games, tuning out to music or even telling yourself "it's going to be fine," are ways to feel more comfortable on a dentist's chair.
LOOK: Common things people are afraid of during a dentist visit:
1. Fear Of The Unknown
When Siegelman receives a new patient, he often doesn't jump right into the cleaning or dental procedure in the first visit. Instead, he sits with the new patient in his office -- with the door open, so there's no feelings of claustrophobia -- just to talk, so the patient can get to know him first. Siegelman said that other people with milder dental phobia can also ask to meet with their dentist first to help quell fears. While not all dentists may not have the luxury of time to be able to do this, it's worth asking a dentist before scheduling an appointment if you think it will help you feel more at ease, he said.
2. Fear Of The Dental Equipment
Sometimes, the scariest part of the dental visit is having those strange, sharp, metal tools stuck into your mouth. "I think it's an instinctive thing not to like noisy, sharp, piercing metallic things," Siegelman said. What can help ease this fear is to ask to hold the tools first, just so they don't seem so foreign, he suggested.
3. Sensitive Gag Reflex
People with a sensitive gag reflex may loathe the part of the dentist's visit where those tabs are put in the mouth for the dental X-ray. These days, newer dentist offices offer panoramic X-rays, Siegelman said.
4. The Dentist Seems Ominous
Find a dentist with a sense of humor! A study published in the <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21896054" target="_hplink"><em>European Journal of Oral Science</em></a> showed that empathy and humor are big factors in reducing dental fear. "Psychological barriers can be broken down by humor, both as a result of the patient and the dentist coming together more as equals, and as a result of humor reducing stress, increasing well-being and creating a pleasant atmosphere," study researcher Jenny Bernson, of the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, said <a href="http://www.sahlgrenska.gu.se/english/news_and_events/news/News_Detail/optimism-and-humour-can-help-to-combat-dental-fear.cid1058382" target="_hplink">in a statement</a>. While humor is a great tactic to help a patient feel more at ease, Siegelman said that it's important that a dentist have a good grasp of the patient's sense of humor, or else it could backfire. "Absolutely, humor is great for anxiety, without question," Siegelman said. "I just think that it's a tough play -- not every patient has a great sense of humor, and not every dentist has a great sense of humor."
5. Fear Of Loud Noises
Those dental tools can be really loud, and the noise can stir up fear in some people, Siegelman said. So, he recommends that these people wear earplugs or noice-canceling headphones to block out the sound.
6. Feeling Uncomfortable Lying Back In A Dentist's Chair
Some people may be uncomfortable with something as simple as lying back in the dentist's chair, due to a bad back or some control issues, Siegelman said. A simple remedy may be for the dentist to only put the patient half-back so that it's more comfortable. Or, a dentist could provide positioning pillows for people who feel aches and pains for being in a laid-back position.
7. Unable To Breathe Through The Nose
Are you a mouth-breather, who feels like you're being stifled if you can only breathe through your nose? That could be an issue at a dentist visit, where the dentist must work in the mouth, which can make mouth-breathing hard. Siegelman recommends nasal strips for patients to help them breathe through their nose. Or, nitrous oxide could help people relax and breathe better -- it all depends on the situation, he said.
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