Dental phobia: Study confirms positive effect of hypnosis

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Dental phobia: Study confirms positive effect of hypnosis


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Psychologists and dentists have investigated the success of non-pharmacological interventions in reducing mental distress in dental treatment—a fear that many people have. (Photograph: M. Szabó/ UKJ)

Thu. 21. December 2017


JENA, Germany: In a new meta-analysis, German scientists have examined the efficacy of various non-drug interventions against psychological stress and anxiety regarding dental treatment. From their evaluation of 29 studies, they concluded that provision of detailed information to the patient, music, relaxation and distraction act against mild to moderate dental fear. Hypnosis proved to be the most effective tool and can be used in practice even without specialist knowledge of the technique.

The reception at the counter may be friendly, the waiting room bright and not crowded; however, once the patient hears the dental equipment or sits down on the dental chair, fear is aroused. For about one in four adults, going to the dentist is associated with psychological stress and anxiety—4 per cent even suffer from a pronounced dental phobia. Various non-drug treatments are used to address this anxiety, enabling the patient to have a more relaxed and stress-free dental care experience.

The effectiveness of these interventions has now been studied by psychologists and dentists at the Jena University Hospital. For their research, they first looked at more than 3,000 studies conducted on this topic over the past decades. From this literature search, they selected the most relevant studies.  “We only considered studies whose participants were randomly assigned to the intervention group and a control group,” said Sophia Burghardt in describing one of the strict quality criteria.  In her doctoral thesis, from which the study was derived, the dentist evaluated the results of the eligible 29 studies with a total of nearly 3,000 participants. “The studies looked at the effects of measures such as listening to music, relaxation exercises, distraction, hypnosis or detailed information before and during treatment for larger fillings, root canal therapy, third molar extraction and implant surgery, for example,” explained Burghardt.

The results confirmed the effectiveness of these approaches in relieving the patient’s anxiety. “We were surprised that nearly all interventions were effective in reducing the psychological burden, and the majority of patients reported a decrease in anxiety. By far the best results were found in the use of hypnosis,” said psychologist Dr Jenny Rosendahl, who led the meta-analysis. This corroborated the findings of an earlier work on the effectiveness of hypnosis in surgical procedures. She added: “However, an analgesic effect of the investigated measures could not be proven. That’s probably because most dental procedures were performed under local anaesthesia anyway.”

The authors of the study intend for their findings to encourage dental practitioners to use non-pharmacological measures for tense and anxious patients in addition to the standard treatment. “Distracting pictures or music can already reduce the patients’ anxiety,” Rosendahl said, hypnosis can easily be performed using a recording, as was the case in the analysed studies, for which the instructions came off a tape.

The study, titled “Non-pharmacological interventions for reducing mental distress in patients undergoing dental procedures: Systematic review and meta-analysis”, was published ahead of print on 14 November 2017 in the Journal of Dentistry. The researchers stressed that further high-quality trials are needed to strengthen the promising evidence.

One thought on “Dental phobia: Study confirms positive effect of hypnosis

  1. Richard Driscoll says:


    We have been working with a similar protocol for test anxiety, and find a half letter grade benefit for those who pactice the training once or twice. See

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