Nature versus nurture is an age-old debate about how human beings become who they are. Personality type, attitudes, aptitudes, and fears are all the result of nature (genetics), nurture (environment), or both.
Fearing the dentist is a longstanding attitude amongst the public. Getting into the dentist chair is not always an experience every patient looks forward to. However, there is a major difference between disliking going to the dentist and having a true debilitating fear. In an effort to seek out more information, psychologists at West Virginia University conducted a study published in Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology. The study explores the possibility that fear of dental appointments could be caused by genetics, meaning that nature might be partly to blame after all.
Interested in learning more? Keep reading to discover what the studies found and how you can help ease your clientsa�� nerves as a dental professional.
Dental Fear Explained for Students in Dental Hygiene Courses
During your dental hygiene courses you will learn everything from client management to communication techniques and psychology for the dental health professional, among many other courses. All of these classes will help you develop the skills needed to create a positive patient experience as a professional dental hygienist.
According to Statistics Canada, 40 per cent of Canadians avoid dental care because they are afraid of the dentist. Ita��s safe to assume that during your career you will likely encounter patients who need a little extra emotional support while in the chair. For many of these patients, fear of the dentist typically stems from a fear of needles, pain, and not feeling in control.
Study Findings Show a Patienta��s Fear of the Dentist Is Partially Genetic
1,370 people between the ages of 11 and 74 participated in the study conducted by West Virginia University. The study focussed on families in order to better understand the role genetics play in dental fear and fear of experiencing pain. According to the research findings, dental fear was 30 per cent heritable among those surveyed, while fear of pain was 34 per cent heritable.
Researchers also found a strong genetic correlation between fear of pain and fear of the dentist. Those with fear of pain were more genetically inclined to also fear the dentist. One of the studya��s lead researchers, doctoral candidate Cameron Randall, noted that a�?The most important conclusion of this study is that our genes may predispose us to be more susceptible to developing dental fear, perhaps through pain-related variables.a�?
Randall goes on to explain the contribution of outside factors in a patienta��s fear, saying that
a�?This information, along with a well-documented understanding of the important role of prior experiences and environment in causing dental fear, may help us develop new ways to treat dental fear and phobia.a�?
How to Help Your Patients Overcome Fear after You Become a Dental Hygienist
Once you become a dental hygienist you will encounter patients from all walks of life. Under the supervision of a dentist you will work by your patienta��s side to improve their dental health and keep them calm during procedures. Even though many Canadians suffer from a phobia of the dentist, there are many ways you can improve their experience.
When a patient arrives for their dental appointment, you can make friendly eye contact, ask lots of questions, and listen closely to any concerns they may have. When patients feel heard it helps them feel reassured and in safe hands. Many patients feel more comfortable when they are kept informed, so providing updates and warnings during a procedure can help calm any nervous thoughts. In addition, creating a stop hand signal they can use at any time during a procedure will help patients feel as if they have more control.
Do you want to help create a great dental experience for patients? Achieving your dental hygiene accredited diploma is the first step.
Contact The Canadian Academy of Dental Health today to get started!