Dental anxiety plays a significant role in pediatric care. Yet one recent study from the Rishiraj College of Dental Sciences and Research Centre in Bhopal, India, suggests that how the dentist is dressed can play a significant role in easing those fears. It also suggests that gender has an effect on how the child feels.
The researchers surveyed 1,155 children between the ages of 9 and 12 about their previous dental and medical experiences and if they preferred male or female dentists. The children additionally ranked their reaction to various aspects of dental treatment, from not afraid to very afraid, indicating their level of dental anxiety.
Also, the children viewed 4 photographs of an anonymous male dentist wearing 4 different aprons in a single clinical setup. Two of the outfits were formal and white, while the others were stylish and in blue and green. The children were then asked which outfit they preferred.
According to the survey, 718 (or 62%) of the children were anxious, and 437 (38%) were not. Also, 610 (85%) of the anxious children were girls, while 108 (15%) were boys. The researchers said the disproportionate rates between boys and girls may be indicative of the greater rates of anxiety and, specifically, dental anxiety among females in general.
Of the anxious children, 502 (69.9%) said they preferred the colorful attire, while 216 (30.1%) chose conventional attire. Of the non-anxious children, 128 (29.2%) chose the colored attire, while 309 (70.8%) chose conventional attire. The researchers noted that children perceive colors as pleasing and link color to positive instead of negative emotions.
Furthermore, 246 (34%) of the anxious children preferred male dentists, while 452 (66%) of them preferred female dentists. Among the nonanxious children, 200 (46%) preferred male dentists, and 237 (54%) preferred female dentists. However, 244 (68.5%) of the boys chose male dentists, while 597 (75%) of the girls preferred female dentists, indicating same-gender preferences for both boys and girls.
The researchers concluded that information about the anxiety of pediatric patients may be useful in distracting them with their own pleasing preferences. The study, “A Survey of the Dentist Attire and Gender Preferences in Dentally Anxious Children,” was published by the Journal of Indian Society of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry.