The role of hypnotherapy in dentistry.

Hypnosis in dentistry:International Medical & Dental Hypnotherapy Assoc.

Dental fear is a universal phenomenon justifying the increasing relevance of psychology and the behavioural sciences to dental training and clinical practice. Pharmacological sedation has been used more and more over the past two decades, in order to relieve dental anxiety and phobia and let the patient face oral surgery safely. Hypnosis is a still underused but powerful non-pharmacological tool in dentistry. It provides an effective sedation whilst maintaining patient collaboration, but it also may help patients recovering from dental anxiety and phobia as well as those with a severe gag reflex. While pharmacological sedation affords a temporary respite and helps the patient to cope with a single procedure, hypnosis can effectively allow for both an excellent sedation in a physiological way and the treatment of patients' anxiety, or substantially decrease the doses used for sedative and analgesic drugs when these are needed.

Hypnosis in dentistry

What is hypnosis?

Hard to say and even experts can’t quite agree on that one… but it could be described as the quieting of the conscious mind. Hypnotists can help you achieve a state where you can more readily access your subconscious mind, and then give suggestions to help you visualize what it is you want to accomplish. Hypnosis is characterized by a trance state.

Trance is a state of mind in which our normal awareness of the outside world is reduced, and our attention is focused on some activity, physical stimulus, image, fantasy, thought or feeling. People enter this state spontaneously everyday, for example when being lost in thought or day dreaming, working out in the gym, reading, listening to music, surfing the web, or driving “on autopilot”.

Hypnosis formalises this process of entrancement and intensifies it. The person being hypnotised is given a series of instructions which are intended to assist them in achieving a trance state. Hypnosis is not a form of treatment or therapy in its own right, but is used as an adjunct to other therapeutic approaches.

Hypnosis is not magic, you don’t “loose control” any more than you would in the everyday examples above, and as long as it’s used by a responsible professional there should be no concerns regarding safety (more about this below). It is impossible to hypnotise someone against their will – even if some stage hypnotism routines (such as making people eat whole lemons and the like) seem to suggest otherwise, these people actually have the wish to cooperate with the instructions! For example, they may wish to please the hypnotist, or enjoy performing for the crowd and being the centre of attention.

Another salient feature of hypnosis is rapport – a “meeting of the minds”, an emotional affinity or feeling of mutual trust. Did you ever find yourself “mesmerised” by someone who exudes confidence and who appears to be really interested in you as a person? Being entranced in such a way is an example of informal hypnosis, that is, hypnosis without a set of formal instructions.

What are the applications of hypnosis in dentistry?

Some applications of hypnosis in dentistry include controlling a strong gag reflex, treating chronic facial pain, modification of unwanted habits such as teeth grinding, and much more.

Interestingly, it is not used that frequently for treating the actual phobia. This is because hypnosis works extremely well with some people, but isn’t for everyone. For example, Mike Gow (one of the few dentists in the U.K. who holds a masters degree in Hypnosis Applied to Dentistry) uses hypnosis “formally” with only about 15% of his phobic patients. But for those 15%, it works really well!

Can Hypnosis Be Harmful? How to Find a Safe Hypnotherapist


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