Parents with dental phobia are putting their children’s oral health at risk as thousands of young Australians end up in hospitals due to cavities.
For Sally-Ann Blundshard, it was a bad reaction after a standard wisdom teeth extraction that left her terrified of going to the dentist.
Although the procedure was performed as a teenager, Ms. Blundshard’s fear, also known as dental phobia, persisted into adulthood.
It wasn’t until the time came for her two children to visit the dentist that the Brisbane mother realized she needed to overcome her fears.
Ms Blundshard’s experience accounts for half of all Australian adults, with a quarter of them admitting they haven’t made an appointment with their dentist since they had a “bad experience”.
This fear is then passed on to their children, contributing to generational concerns about oral health.
New Oral Care Brand Research Green Natural found that due to a lack of education in dental care, 40 percent of Australian parents did not know what to look for when it came to checking their children’s teeth.
In addition, the data showed that almost one in three children under the age of 10 developed cavities, and another 36% of parents were not sure how cavities develop.
It is because of the lack of education that more than 26,000 children under the age of 15 are hospitalized each year for caries treatment.
Oral therapist Emma Kubis says the idea of their child sharing the same “nightmare” dentist experience, the cost of treatment and potential pain is making it difficult for parents to book an appointment.
“Parents don’t have to be afraid to take their kids to the dentist,” Ms Kubis told news.com.au.
“Neglecting a child’s oral health has serious consequences for him later in life, as he is more likely to experience dental problems as an adult.”
Ms. Kubis recommends introducing children to the dentist as early as age two, where they are offered activities such as counting teeth and “walking” the dentist’s lobe to instill memories of the fun experience.
This is also a good opportunity for the dentist to evaluate the child for any dental or gum problems, as well as teach parents how to properly care for their child’s teeth as they develop.
“I know that making a phone call to book an appointment with the dentist can be a huge step, so just know that we understand that an appointment is a huge step and we always strive to make the appointment as comfortable as possible knowing this.” said Ms. Kubis. .
“Let your dentist know what is bothering you, as this will help us help you. Let us know about any specific triggers so we can minimize them for you during your visit.”
Bedside demeanor has also come a long way, Ms Kubis said, with dentists offering a range of techniques to help calm all little patients.
This includes “gift bags” consisting of a new toothbrush, floss, and toothpaste, as well as breaking down dental terminology into easy-to-understand language, such as the term “tooth counter” for a dental probe.
“Especially if this is a child’s first dental visit and at an early stage of building trust, we try not to push the child out of their comfort zone,” Ms Kubis said.
“It can look like sitting on a parent’s lap if they don’t want to sit in the dental chair on their own, or just watch instead of using a dental probe and mirror. We can also turn to specialized pediatric dentists who are well trained in caring for young children.”
Sally-Anne Blundshard’s fear of the dentist has lessened since taking her children for checkups, as she has seen firsthand how far the dental experience has come.
Another motivator that helped the mother-of-two return to the dentist’s chair was the idea of having a perfect smile and giving her children the best possible medical care.
“There is nothing worse than having your fear heightened by their tears,” Ms. Blanchard said in response to a discussion about how she overcame her fear.
“(It’s important) just to be there. Hold their hand and know that they need you more than your fear needs you.”
Both children and adults are encouraged to brush their teeth twice a day and sign up for preventive check-ups at least once a year.
To encourage more Australians to take care of their dental health, former Olympian and mother of six Jana Pittman has teamed up with Grin Natural as an ambassador for their “Share a Grin” campaign.
Until the end of August this year, Grin Natural will be donating a toothbrush to a child in need for every product purchased from the Chemist Warehouse.
Being a parent is extremely difficult, there is so much to think about and prioritize, but following the rules of oral care with your children aged
possibly set you and your family up for a better future,” Dr. Pittman said.