Hypnosis for dental work
Stuttgart - Many people dread dentist visits and feel a shiver go down their spine just thinking about the sound of the drill. They are afraid of pain and insist on anaesthesia, which often has unpleasant side effects such as a swollen cheek and strong pain afterward.
Some patients cannot tolerate the anaesthetic. Dental treatment under hypnosis is a possible alternative in such cases.
A fearful patient unconsciously transmits his or her tension to the dentist, senses the dentist's growing tension and reacts by becoming even more tense, according to the German Society of Dental Hypnosis (DGZH). The result, it said, is a vicious circle detrimental to the patient, the dentist and the treatment itself.
There are patients with a pronounced dental phobia, a hypersensitive gag reflex or an allergy to local anaesthetics. Often they can be treated only under general anaesthesia, the DGZH said. Or they can allow themselves to be hypnotised.
As the DGZH describes it, the aim of dental hypnosis is to put the patient in a relaxed "trance state" for the procedure.
"It's a state of relaxation in which the patient's attention isn't directed outward, but rather inward - the patient shuts down a little, as it were," noted Stephan Eitner, a dentist and president of the German Society of Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy (DGH).
In this relaxed state, he said, external perception is "switched off".
The patient blocks out unpleasant sensations during the dental procedure and feels good, which the DGZH said manifested itself physically in a calm heart rate, low blood pressure, deep abdominal respiration and relaxed muscles.
The hypnotic state can be achieved by suggestion, induced relaxation -with the help of hypnosis CDs underlaid with relaxing music, for example - as well as by distraction, the DGZH said.
"Concentration is the first thing we do," Eitner remarked. The dentist speaks with the patient in a way that diverts the patient's thoughts from anxieties and focuses them inward, he said, comparing the mental state with "daydreaming".
Eitner said fears of suddenly awakening from hypnosis during the dental procedure and feeling intense pain were groundless.
"We work with a 'net' and 'double bottom'," he said. To be on the safe side, he explained, hypnotised patients are also given a local anaesthetic if they tolerate it. Thanks to the hypnosis, they need only about a quarter of the usual dosage to feel no pain, he said.
Eitner said dental hypnosis was not performed on "patients with a history of mental illness". People who either are or were in psychotherapy are unacceptable, he said, because their behaviour under hypnosis is unpredictable.
Georg Duenzl, a dentist and executive board member of the Munich- based Milton Erickson Society for Clinical Hypnosis (MEG), said interest in hypnosis treatments was generally high, although there are no precise figures for Germany.
Duenzl said he personally performed one or two formal hypnosis treatments a week in his own dental practice. But he added that he employed elements of hypnosis in every treatment - by calming his patients and trying to get them to picture relaxing images.