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News / February 19, 2010

Children’s fear of the dentist linked to turbulent home life

by Guy Hiscott

Children and adolescents with severe dental fear often have a turbulent home life, according to research carried out by Annika Gustafsson at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

They are also four times more likely to have had contact with a psychologist or counsellor than children and adolescents not afraid to attend a dental appointment.

Just over 250 children and adolescents with dental behaviour management problems and their parents completed questionnaires describing their family situation and everyday life. Their answers were then compared with answers from the same number of patients within ordinary dental care limits.

Dr Gustafsson stated: ‘The children and adolescents with dental behaviour management problems suffered significantly more from dental fear, and they lived in families of lower social class and poor economy. Most often, they lived in single-parent families, they had fewer leisure activities and more psychosocial problems than patients who had experienced ordinary dental care.’

Their parents, in turn, stated that they also suffered from severe dental fear and had general problems with anxiety and worry. 

‘We must become better at discovering at an early age which children and adolescents need help and support,’ says Dr Gustafsson, adding that dental professionals should collaborate more closely with social services.