When as much as 75% of Americans suffer from dental anxiety, it’s no wonder that scientists are trying to figure out what causes it. Dental anxiety can vary in severity from person to person. Some people experience tension and fear throughout their appointments, and many avoid dental care entirely.
The worst part is that the longer you avoid the dentist, the more deeply rooted that dental anxiety will grow. But in the modern age, dentistry is easier and more comfortable than it’s ever been before. So why are we still so scared of it?
Could Dental Anxiety Be Genetic?
Researchers have been seeking to answer this question for years. Recently, psychology researchers from West Virginia University found evidence that dental anxiety might actually be passed on from parent to child genetically.
Researchers found that fear of dental care and fear of pain are linked, since both fears seem to be influenced by some of the same genes. They believe that if parents suffer from dental anxiety, their children are more susceptible to developing it.
Although the results of this study are fascinating, the tie between fear of pain and fear of dental care might be the most interesting part. Nowadays, it’s incredibly unusual for dental procedures to create pain. A caring, gentle dentist like Dr. Michael Weinstock can ensure that your dental procedures are completely pain-free. So if it’s not pain, what is it?
Parents pass on a lot more information to their children than just their DNA. Scientists at the Rey Juan Carlos University of Madrid found that parents also pass on dental anxiety to their children through emotional transmission. If one family member displays a high level of dental anxiety, other family members experienced heightened anxiety.
This means that even if someone has never experienced pain during dental care in their life, they could still be inheriting or intuiting dental anxiety from their parents.
Stop the Cycle
Don’t pass your dental anxiety on to your children! By facing your fears now, you can stop the cycle — whether it’s genetic, learned, or some combination of both.
Dental anxiety can stem from a variety of other fears, from fear of needles to claustrophobia and beyond. The key to treating your specific dental anxiety is working with a dentist who will take your concerns seriously. Your dentist can help you determine the best ways to fight your dental anxiety.
And if nothing seems to help, don’t let your fear stop you from taking good care of your teeth! Sedation dentistry is a great way to relax during treatments, and may even help you feel calmer at future appointments without sedation.