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Easing Dental Fear

If you're afraid of visiting the dentist, you are not alone. Some 40 million patients in the United States have such a serious dental fear that it keeps them from getting the care they need. If you're a parent, passing those fears on to your child may be easier than you think.


ass=MsoNormal>For help, a new Web site, www.dentalfear.com, provides patients with useful information about dentistry fear and phobia. The site was created by Jack Bynes, D.M.D., who specializes in treating phobic patients in Coventry, Conn., as part of his mission to help patients overcome dental fear and to train dentists to provide care sensitive to the issue.


ass=MsoNormal>Bynes says young children do not have a built-in fear of the dentist. But a bad experience or a parent’s anxiety may make the young visitor more anxious than necessary. Even a well-meaning parent attempting to support a child can inadvertently cause alarm. Bynes explains that innocent comments, such as "Don't worry, the dentist won't hurt you," can scare a 4-year-old. The youngster, who had his mind on the sticker he's going to get, now changes that thought to "Wow, I must have something to worry about!"


ass=MsoNormal>The site contains articles for parents like "Dental Fear in Children," written by professionals. There's also a patient forum, an "ask the dentist" link and examples of proactive coping strategies that have proven effective. According to Bynes, noninvasive techniques, such as music through headphones, virtual reality television goggles (a favorite for children) and massage chairs, can make a visit to the dentist much easier.


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– Jean Bertuccelli Sheff


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