Using hypnosis in dentistry
Who would believe that a tooth extraction could be an awe-inspiring experience. Using hypnodontia can be a positive experience that you will never forget. It becomes even more unbelievably awesome when the tooth extraction is done without an iota of anesthesia.
Hypnodontia, more currently known as hypnodontics, is one of the more objective manifestations of hypnotic application: observing an excruciating pain zapped by hypnosuggestion.
I am not a dentist, but a long time ago, I was a young enthusiastic novice starting to practice hypnosis – I had just received a certificate in hypnotherapy. I was a junior in pre-med school at the time, and I got into this exciting dental process by twist of fate.
The experience was a milestone that gave me the confidence during this critical phase of learning the practical applications of hypnosis. Without this experience, I might have been discouraged and lost interest as most beginners do. That was several decades ago; now, I am proud to announce that I have authored an introductory manual on hypnotherapy as proof of my endless enthusiasm about hypnosis.
Before sharing this awe-inspiring experience, let us first consider a brief overview of hypnodontia.
Hypnodontics is the use of hypnosuggestion in dentistry as a means of relaxing tense patients, relieving anxiety, reinforcing or replacing anesthesia, and correcting such habits as bruxism (clenching or grinding the teeth and jaw). Hypnodontics simply means the dental application of hypnosis to allay fear and anxiety and to alleviate pain. It is also applicable for all procedures from tooth extraction to root canal.
One study conducted almost half a century ago suggests that the incidence of dental phobia is at 6.9% of the general population and 16% in school-age children. This data are likely much reduced today due to sophisticated instrumentation and state-of-the-art dental practice. However, studies today show that many patients put off going to the dentist until the pain or dental problem becomes intolerable. This is often due to phobic reactions or anxiety and fear.
The first reported practice of hypnodontics was in 1836 when a French physician, Jean-Victor Oudet, applied hypnoanesthesia in a dental extraction; this procedure then was identified with “mesmerism.” Ribaud and Kiaro from France followed in 1847 when they did a similar procedure with a jaw tumor excision.
Hypnodontia is relatively easy to apply to a highly susceptible individual. In fact, the Scoring System for Inducing Depth Hypnosis designed by LeCron-Bourdeux (which I dubbed the ‘Hypnometro’) is only between Depth 33 (Complete anesthesia) and Depth 34 (Posthypnotic anesthesia) out of the possible 100, both under Deep or Somnambulistic Trance Level.
The experience that I had with hypnodontia (with a dentist) is really the benchmark of why my enthusiasm with hypnosis has endured. I enjoyed sharing this experience with my psychology students whenever we discussed the autonomic nervous system (ANS). However, I never hypnotized a single student during my entire professorial career, except in suitable milieus (lectures or seminars) where I was doing hypnotic demonstration. Here is the story:
One of my cousins L, about 12 years old, got an appointment for a tooth extraction. I volunteered to drive him to the dentist office. Upon reaching the place, L became so apprehensive that he refused to go into the dentist office! I tried to cajole him but to no avail. Then, thinking this could be an opportune time to practice ‘hypnotic power’ on him, I casually asked, “Would you like to be hypnotized?”
“Yes!” L replied unhesitatingly. He agreed to enter the office, so I could discuss the matter with his dentist. After a few cordial greetings, I brought out the question, “Doctor… have you ever heard of ‘hypnodontia’?” The answer was an emphatic yet affable, “No.”
Fortunately, he allowed me to provide him with a half-hour lecture on hypnosis (luckily it was a not busy day for this dentist). The dentist was convinced. “How do we start,” was like music to my ears. My response was, “We just need to follow the flow. I will first hypnotize L, of course…”
The truth of the matter is I was not sure of what to expect, or of the outcome; using the word “flow” was purely metaphoric. I was busy trying to muster consciously what my subconscious mind had imbibed from the handful of research that I had read about hypnodontia, which was really not much!
The hypnotic induction with L went smoothly. The dentist was impressed. I felt good myself.
Unbeknown to the dentist, I already hypnotized L many times before and found him extremely susceptible. I did a ‘negative hallucination’ test with ease: made him lick a small bar of soap as a candy. In the process, I also gave him a posthypnotic “cue word” for easier and faster hypnotic induction in the future. Therefore, in my calculation, L was indeed hypnotically ready.
Although this was actually my first attempt at hypnodontia, I seriously kept mum, intentionally evading the words “experiment,” or “first time” with the dentist. I did not want the dentist losing confidence in me at this point. However, I would have told him the truth, if he had asked.
Induction was quick due to the pre-suggested posthypnotic cue previously given to L. I repeated several times the word “ticniv,” a kind of anagram for the Latin word “vincit” meaning, “conquer.” I sensed the dentist’s curiousness as to what this mystic-sounding word meant; however, he did not ask. I was fine with that; spared me the time of discussing posthypnotic phenomena, which could have led into another lecture session.
When in my calculation L was in a hypnotic level, I hoped (and prayed) he was, the dentist interrupted and said, “What’s next…?” Without hesitation I said, “Scrape the gum…to expose the tooth.” (To validate my calculation… or identify that L was not at the level I suspected he was…).
There was no pain-reaction whatsoever manifested by L! I literally felt my heart jump with excitement; and then I had some apprehension: Excited because I believe we achieved the right hypnotic level, and apprehensive about the prospect of L waking up unexpectedly. The dentist and I were both awestricken. I tried not to show my excitement, or the fear; instead, I tried exuding a calm confidence.
“What’s next…?” asked the dentist again…. “Poke on the bad tooth…” I said. He did a few times. We observed no adverse response from L. “What’s next…?” the dentist asked again. “Pull the tooth out!” I replied with urgency. He did, while L remained in a seemingly pleasant state of sleep. The process was successful, and surprisingly there was less blood than usual (according to the doctor). The dentist was flabbergasted; and so was I.
Upon my dehypnotization of L, the doctor, addressing L, declared, “Done!” L, who seemed stupefied for a moment was checking out the bad tooth using his tongue. With disbelief painted all over his face, he uttered, “Oh!” We showed him the extracted tooth and then provided him a mirror to check for himself. The doctor glanced at me and quipped, ‘”Magic!” “An actual objective manifestation of hypnotic power,” was my reply, with a quiet sigh of relief.
The living proof of this experience still exists. My cousin L now lives in Northern California with his family, and he still remembers gleanings of this experience; and he loves to talk about it!
Of course, not everybody might be as hypnotic-susceptible as my cousin L might. Hypnodontics is a selective procedure: it is not for everyone. However, it could be very effective with select dental clientele who are fearful, tense, nervous, or anxious before and during dental procedures.
Hypnodontics can also be one excellent alternative among hypnotic-susceptible individuals with anesthetic or drug intake issues or concerns. This clientele may represent a small minority in the population of an average dental practice; however, they often present the majority of problems the dentist encounters in his daily routine.
Finally, the final conclusion according to philosopher Bertrand Russell is that, “We know very little, and yet it is astonishing that we know so much, and still more astonishing that so little knowledge can give us so much power.”
Dare to refute that.
Dr. Aggie Carson-Arenas is a Certified Clinical Psychology Specialist, a former associate professor and university research director. He is a Behavior Analyst Specialist in Nevada, an educator, clinician, researcher, consultant, columnist and a published author. Dr. Carson-Arenas is a certified hypnotherapist. This is a true experience which took place in the Philippines many years ago. Readers are warned that the real dental procedures and techniques presented were only “tolerated culturally” in the said country at the time. Dr. Carson-Arenas founded the Psi-Hypnosis Society Inquest (PSI), Inc. with a group of students from different universities in Manila to study paranormal psychology in the Philippines; probably one of the first registered with the SEC as a non-profit organizations — Dr. Carson-Arenas still has the original SEC registration.