Hypnosis and Dental Fear

I recently had a client with very special needs. She is a mildly mentally retarded adult, age 56, and she is very afraid of the dentist. Unfortunately, she needed to have seven teeth extracted and her family was having difficulty getting her to accept the procedure.

Early in childhood, this woman had no way of understanding what was happening when she went to the dentist. Even now as an adult, she has the understanding of a clever 6 year old. In the 1950’s her family had a dentist who did not commonly use Novocain and resorted to tie-down techniques in order to get his job done. She feared going for checkups and every time she had a cavity, her fear of the dentist and his needles increased.

As she grew, she needed orthodontia and was a recalcitrant patient. Every visit was a battle and her fear continued to compound.

Then, in her 40’s, she lost all of her top teeth and some of her bottom teeth. On top she ended up with a full plate and on the bottom a partial. However, due to lack of care of her few remaining teeth they started to rot and break causing gum infections and an overall deterioration of her health.

Extraction of the remaining teeth was her only option. But how?

Her family turned to me for help. I traveled to her home on a Friday evening in August and asked her if she would “talk” with me for awhile. She was willing. Within moments she was in a relaxed and comfortable hypnotic trance where I prepared the groundwork for her hypnosis training.

On Saturday, I did another session with her. She responded immediately and enjoyed the visualizations we created for her to have a safe, comfortable place she could go in her own mind whenever she felt fear or stress.

I saw her again on Sunday morning. This time when we talked, I did what we call in the field of hypnotherapy a trauma reversal. She followed instructions and did an outstanding job. She thoroughly enjoyed the session and remarked how happy she felt when we were done.

On Sunday evening, I returned and we did a longer session focused on her safe, comfortable place and how easy it is to relax even when she is afraid. She really enjoyed our time together and liked the way she felt. “Oh Jo, I feel so relaxed. Even my arms feel heavy. I’m relaxed everywhere. I can do it.” The family kept her entertained and distracted for the rest of that day by going to see the 3-D movie Despicable Me.

Late Monday morning, I arrived and did a visualization rehearsal with her of going to the dental office while she was feeling as relaxed as she did in hypnosis. While she was hypnotized, I went over everything that would happen in the office reinforcing for her that she could really enjoy herself while reclining in the dental chair.

After lunch, I went with her and the family to the dentist. The dental assistant had a rolling stool for me next to the dental chair. I had prearranged with the dentist to give us ten minutes alone in the treatment room before he came in. During that time, I helped her achieve a very deep state of hypnotic trance. She felt comfortable and relaxed. Her previous history in this room was one of vigilant alertness, constant movement, and endless argument.

During this time, assistants looked in, the dentist looked in, her family came to the door and looked in – all were surprised that she was comfortably reclined back in the chair.

Finally the dentist arrived and began his work. This patient remained relaxed with her eyes closed and willingly opened her mouth for the injections. She was able to respond to the dentists questions while remaining hypnotized and comfortable. I continued to deepen her hypnosis throughout the treatment while giving her hypnotic suggestions to assist her comfort.

The procedure that all expected to take over an hour was accomplished in just over 30 minutes. During that time, the patient even giggled and laughed along with the imagery we created prior to the procedure. I was amazed that the giggling occurred during removal of one of the more difficult teeth.

Using hypnosis for dentistry goes back hundreds of years. Even though there are wonderful dental techniques for comfort control they don’t work if a dentist can’t get the patient to calm down enough to move forward with treatment. This is where hypnodontics comes in and can be a wonderful adjunct to traditional dentistry.