superhero dentists

Dentists: Are They Superheroes or Villians?

Does your child view the dentist as a superhero or a villain?  At KidZdent, our pediatric dentists have specialty training in patient management skills, and can foster positive dental experiences and life-long relationship with your child.  Every day they slip into their proverbial superhero capes, and give 150% to our young patients to ensure that they feel comfortable and have a terrific dental experience. Please take a look at the study below, which outlines why it is so important to have a “superhero” pediatric dentist for your child.

About 50% of young children perceive dentists as a type of superhero, according to a study published on April 7 in the European Journal of Oral Sciences. But another 30% of children saw dentists as Batman’s villain the Joker, or as monsters.

The respondents were part of a survey to understand how children perceive dentists in order to bolster trust and improve communication. In addition to superheroes, many children saw dentists as a repair person or an artist. A minority of children, approximately 20%, perceived dentists as scientists or educators. 

“Coupled with behavior management, this understanding can be an important part of improving dental visit behaviors and fostering positive attitudes among children,” wrote the author, Dr. Burak Buldur, PhD, of the Department of Pediatric Dentistry at Sivas Cumhuriyet University in Turkey.

Metaphors to build better relationships

The relationship between a dentist and a patient can affect clinical outcomes. These relationships can be tested in pediatric cases involving patients with dental anxiety and dentists under stress.

Children’s perceptions of dentists may affect how they take care of their oral health and how they behave when they go to the dental office. These perceptions and behaviors can affect how the pediatric dental professional manages the patient, and therefore, need to be better understood.

Buldur accomplished this by creating and validating a conceptual model of specific determinants of children’s perceptions of dentists. For the research, 1,014 children between the ages of 8 and 13 completed an oral health behavior form, a metaphor form, the Children’s Fear Survey Schedule-Dental Subscale, the Dental Trust Scale, and the Early Childhood Oral Health Impact Scale.

The metaphors used to describe dentists were sorted into the following categories: chaotic and unlovable, scary, artistic, protective and alleviative, restorative, scientific, and educative. Buldur then analyzed the data.

Children’s perceptions of dentists

Category

Percent of children

Metaphor

Main theme

Restorative

18.6%

Repairman, architect, worker

Dentists use complicated restorative materials; they clean decayed or broken teeth with their hands and machine tools.

Artistic

18.3%

Artist, sculptor, painter

Dentists are like artists because both professions increase aesthetic beauty and make people feel more beautiful.

Protective and alleviative

17.6%

Painkiller, superhero, Batman

Dentists eliminate toothaches and rush to help in difficult times.

Scary

13.9%

Monster, tyrant, murderer

Dentists are scary because they pull teeth, the needles they use are frightening, and they don’t explain treatments.

Chaotic and unlovable

13.2%

Joker, villain, wizard

Dentists’ work is complicated; they use too many instruments and operatories are chaotic and complex.

Scientific

9.7%

Scientist, doctor, genius

Dentistry is difficult and related to medicine and human anatomy.

Educative

8.7%

Parent, teacher, psychologist

Dentists discuss oral health, how to brush, and foods that harm teeth.

Children perceived dentists in a variety of ways, the results showed. More than half of children viewed dentists as restorative, artistic, or protective. At times, they associated dentists with Batman, painkillers, or lifeguards.

“A dentist is like Batman because our mouth is like a city,” said one 11-year-old girl. “Sometimes, when bad things come to our mouth that hurt us, dentists protect us from them. Just like Batman protects the city.”

On the other hand, about one-third of children perceived clinicians as unlovable or scary, most often due to their use of needles and terrifying tools. One 8-year-old boy said dentists were like a monster because they “swoop down on children and extract their teeth,” while an 11-year-old boy said dentists were like the Joker.  “The Joker has very interesting and complex tools like dentists,” the 11-year-old boy said. “I don’t know what they are and their images perplex me a lot.”

The words least associated with dentists were scientific or educator, Buldur wrote. These children associated dentists with their knowledge about medicine, human anatomy, and oral health.

“Dentists teach us as our teachers do,” said one 8-year-old boy. “They show us the path to follow in treatment.”

More to Learn

The study had several limitations; for example, the proposed model excluded many parental and environmental factors. Those factors should be explored because they may influence children’s dental behaviors, Buldur wrote.

Nevertheless, the findings shed some light on how children perceive dentists. Understanding that perception can help alleviate anxiety, improve relationships with patients, and improve treatment outcomes.  “It is essential to understand these pathways to promote effective dentist-child interaction and communication,” Buldur concluded.

At KidZdent, we care for your children as if they were our own.   We strive to help parents understand that the pediatric dentist has specialty training and excellent patient management skills that can make a tremendous difference in a young child’s dental experiences.  Our mission is to provide positive visits from the early age of twelve months, that will foster an upbeat attitude toward dentistry as the patient grows, and will result in that patient taking good care of their teeth and gums throughout their lifetime.  

Please contact our office to schedule you child’s next dental cleaning at 732-679-2323 if you have any questions or are looking for more information about how you too can help your children see their dentists as the superheroes that they are!

1 thought on “Dentists: Are They Superheroes or Villians?”

  1. Hi there! Some of the kids in my neighborhood seem quite scared to undergo their annual dental checkup. So I totally agree with your point that we must help change the perception towards dentists for the sake our their oral health in the end. I’ll let them know about this article so they’ll be more encouraged to make an appointment later.

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