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Dental hypnotherapy is a form of alternative medicine that involves putting dental patients into a trance-like state to reduce their ability to sense pain, to alleviate dental anxiety, or to control some long-term dental issue such as teeth grinding. It is usually performed by a dentist or a dental assistant, who may have received training through a hypnotherapy association or other organization. Unlike cinematic representations of hypnosis, dental hypnotherapy is generally not dramatic, and is thought to be effective only if the patient is receptive to it. As many countries do not legally regulate hypnotherapy certification, many in the dental community are skeptical of dental hypnotherapy.
There are several reasons that a practitioner of dental hypnotherapy may use hypnotherapy techniques. He may wish to help calm a patient who normally feels excessive anxiety or fear during dental visits, or he may want to inhibit a patient’s ability to sense pain without the use of anesthetics. Alternatively, this type of hypnotherapy may be used in an attempt to manage a long-term dental problem, such as jaw pain or grinding of the teeth.
Like most forms of hypnotherapy, dental hypnotherapy involves putting an individual into a state of hypnosis, often by speaking a set of instructions in a calm, reassuring tone. While hypnotized, the individual’s awareness of his external surroundings diminishes. Simultaneously, he becomes more responsive than usual to suggestions. Dental hypnotherapy is intended to capitalize on this enhanced suggestibility by instilling certain helpful thoughts in the patient’s head, such as “I will not grind my teeth.”
While hypnosis as it is depicted on television and in movies tends to produce dramatic results, dental hypnotherapy is generally fairly subtle. Patients do not engage in any strange behaviors as a result of hypnotherapy, but rather may experience a slight change in their thoughts. Many hypnotherapists hold that hypnotherapy is usually successful only when patients feel open to it. Consequently, the therapy may not produce results among those who question its validity.
Normally, dental hypnotherapy is performed by a dentist or a dental assistant. In some countries, dentists interested in hypnotherapy techniques can obtain training through a hypnotherapy association, an alternative medicine institute, or, in certain cases, a traditional college. Despite the fact that some organizations offer certification in hypnotherapy, practice of the technique is not legally regulated in many countries, meaning that anyone can call himself a hypnotherapist. Consequently, many in the dental community regard this form of hypnotherapy with skepticism.