P. Uma Devi, Ph. D., F. N.A.Sc., C.Ht,  ARA-B-35A, Plavilakonam, Thachottukavu, Peyad P.O., Trivandrum

Dental problems are on the increase. Several controllable factors, like life style changes, food habits, tobacco chewing and poor oral hygiene, contribute to this increasing trend. Dental diseases and some of their treatments (e.g. tooth extraction, root canal treatment) cause severe pain and discomfort to the patient, since most of the time only local anesthesia is used. The patient also suffers pain during the recovery period. This creates fear of visiting a dentist, especially in children. Moreover, the patient is under a lot of stress, and, therefore, has a low threshold for pain. Even in adults, the thought of going to a dentist produces a tension, anxiety and fear. A recent survey by the British Dental Association has shown that a large number of patients feel stressed and anxious about a dental appointment.
Hypnotherapy is a good method to help such patients. The therapist induces hypnosis, producing an altered state of awareness, characterized by focused attention and increased suggestibility, in the patient. It is a non-invasive method and does not use any medicines, but uses verbal suggestion to bring about the desired effect. Hypnotherapy can produce good analgesic and anesthetic effects, relax the patient and remove fear and anxiety. With hypo-anesthesia, suggestion to relieve pain can be incorporated, so the patient feels no pain or discomfort during and after the procedure. Post-hypnotic suggestions can also help to stop bleeding, retching and reduce the trauma of a difficult dental surgery. Such suggestions, given even under a light trance, can work wonders in soothing the nerves of the patient. A couple of hypnotherapy sessions prior to a dental appointment can reduce tension and fear and keep the patient relaxed. A study in Stockholm indicates that hypnotherapy prior to dental surgery can help reduce anxiety and minimize the post-surgical use of analgesics. Formal training courses in the use of hypnosis for Dentists are conducted in the USA.

(Reproduced from Oral & Maxillofacial Pathology journal, vol 2, no.2, 2011, with permission of editor)