Dealing with the pain of dentistry is our focus here, but the uses and benefits of hypnotherapy in this field extends well beyond pain control. The use of hypnosis in a trained expert’s hands is so useful that dental practices in Great Britain employ full-time hypnotherapy practitioners in important support roles for treatments.
One important role of hypnotherapy involves those patients who experience anxiety or manifest absolute fear over dental visits. There is no one cause for this fear or anxiety. A bad experience, observation of other’s fears, or just a person’s own Middle Mind establishing a locked-in behavior from hearing and seeing stories in the media could initiate such a response. It is possible that the unfamiliarity in everyday life, the sheer “otherness” of dental operations and instruments and procedures lead to anxieties. Hypnotherapy has proven effective repeatedly both in reducing anxieties to moderate levels and in soothing fears and phobias about dental procedures. Because science has shown connections between many bodily issues and conditions originating in the mouth, concerns over drills and needles could lead to serious dental diseases or even greater problems without appropriate and timely interventions. Anxiety and phobias are addressed in more detail in another chapter in Part III.
In addition to alleviating anxiety and fear, a very practical use of hypnosis rightly applied is hypnothesia. Necessity has proven the value of hypnosis and bolstered its standing in the dental community. Just as wars of the nineteenth demonstrated the effectiveness of hypnothesia for critical surgeries such as amputations (before the development of chemical anesthesia that really created a misplaced faith in pharmaceuticals), wars also contributed to high regard for hypnosis in dentistry. The development of hypnosis for dentistry began in the prisoner of war camps of the twentieth century. The primitive conditions of the camps, the poor nutrition, and the lack of care, particularly the medical and dental care provided by the captors, led to serious dental challenges. Among the POWs were medics with some minimal dental training and, of course, actual dental professionals serving their countries. Dental decay and other oral problems became regular challenges. The POWs’ jailers provided no care, generally showing utter disdain for their captives. This environment created the need for creativity among the prisoners, both in procuring instruments suitable for dental procedures, and in dealing with the pain of the procedures and of the post-operative healing. Hypnosis proved to be the answer! Before long, the use of hypnosis for relaxation and pain avoidance was commonplace among the prisoner camps. The success of the camp hypnosis treatment created a continued acceptance and of hypnosis throughout the war years.
With the end of war, however, the general focus of pain management shifted back to chemical agents for pain management. More recently, though, society has seen a modern war on pharmaceuticals, and hypnotherapy has once again proved useful in providing alternative for pain management. First, some people cannot tolerate chemical anesthesia, particularly if they are elderly or infirmed. Secondly, any use of chemical anesthetics comes with side effects and after effects, such as memory loss, dizziness, or nausea. We have all seen the hilarious videos of children and teenagers after oral surgery. Funny, right? Sure, but consider the danger or harm that such medication may produce. We can only speculate now, but with each passing year, we hear more and more how the pharmaceutical companies have profited to our regret. Third, post-surgical pain has led to what we now know can be a deadly reliance on manufactured pain killers.
Hypnotherapy provides the alternative to these dangers. The mind has an amazing strength and elasticity that can overcome many challenges we face; we just have to give it an opportunity. For the use of hypnotherapy for pain, I would suggest sessions with a hypnotherapist prior to the dental procedure in order to establish your comfort with the process. This session allows the therapist to measure the suggestibility as well as to discuss the anticipated dental procedure and the hypnosis process for the procedure.
On the day of the procedure you will be induced into an hypnotic trance. You will be awake and aware of your surroundings. You will be able to follow commands of the dental staff, but you will remain relaxed, probably experiencing a feeling of detachment and maybe even disinterest in what is taking place. You will be able to sense movement, but you will not feel the discomfort of the procedure. During this period of hypnosis, the hypnotherapist will prepare you for after care.
After dental procedures, patients may experience pain during the physical recovery. Hypnosis can be used to override any discomfort, and instructions in personal relaxations and self-hypnosis allows a patient to avoid any chemical dependency. Patients can expect not only to heal faster, but also to resume normal everyday activities quicker,