Children’s and parents’ attitudes towards dentists’ appearance, child dental experience and their relationship with dental anxiety
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To evaluate child and parental attitudes towards dentists’ appearance, subsequently related to a child’s dental experience and their association with child’s anxiety levels.
402 parent–child pairs were surveyed using interviewer-administered questionnaires at the School Dental Service, Health Promotion Board, Singapore. Standardised pictures of models with different attires, ages, genders and ethnicities were shown to the parent–child pairs. Information on each child’s dental experience was obtained. Parental proxy was used to evaluate the children’s dental fear levels based on the Children’s Fear Survey Schedule-Dental Subscale (CFSS-DS).
Personal protective equipment (PPE) was the attire of choice for both parents and children, followed by the paediatric coat. Formal and informal attire was least preferred by children and parents, respectively. Parents preferred female dentists to treat their child, whereas children preferred a dentist of the same gender (p < 0.001). Parent’s and child’s preferences for the child’s dentist’s appearance were shown to be significantly different (p < 0.001). CFSS-DS scores were also significantly associated with the number of previous dental visits (p = 0.002) as well as a history of extractions (p = 0.02), but not with child’s demographics, dmft or preference for dentist’s appearance (p > 0.05).
Regardless of child anxiety levels, the PPE followed by paediatric coats were preferred over other choices of dentists’ attire. Children tended to choose a dentist who was of a younger age, and of the same gender and ethnicity as themselves. Parents tended to choose younger, female dentists of the same ethnicity as themselves. Subjective experience of extractions, as well as multiple dental visits appeared to play a more significant role in the development of dental fear than dental caries experience per se.
KeywordsDentist attire Dental anxiety Dental fear
The authors wish to thank Dr Eu Oy Chu, the nurses and patients at the School Dental Service, Health Promotion Board for their kind assistance with the study.
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