Dental hypnotherapy – a fascinating introduction

Like many dentists, I have been interested in the potential for hypnotherapy to benefit my patients, my practice and myself, but never found the right kind of course, designed for using hypnosis in general dental practice.

This is where the Institute of Hypnotherapy for Medical and Dental Practice (IHMDP) comes in, offering practical courses specifically designed for us GDPs, imparting knowledge and skills that can be taken back into practice and used literally the next day.

I was lucky enough to attend the course in October held in London over two days, joining another 18 delegates for a really fascinating introduction and insight into a whole new world of possibilities.

Sharon Waxkirsh, one of the founders of IHMDP, understands dentistry and our needs because she offers hypnotherapy services for patients within the dental practice setting. Sharon introduced the other founder of IHMDP, our main lecturer and instructor for the two days, Dr John Butler.

John has been using hypnotherapy in his medical practice for some 30 years now, with notable successes and many famous clients to his name, including having fairly major surgery carried out on himself, and filmed, using self-administered hypnoanalgesia as his only form of pain relief during the operation – if you’re not too squeamish the video is available to watch on YouTube.

John’s approach when training practitioners is to make the course as hands-on as possible and within a hour or so we were already working in small groups carrying out hypnotic inductions on each other, with varying levels of success. He doesn’t believe in using rigid scripts, but in teaching the principles of the various techniques and allowing the operator’s own imagination and creativity to develop their own personal style, whilst also being a flexible enough approach to able to react to the subject’s individual needs.

It’s rare to find dental courses where something genuinely new and useful is taught; so many seem to be revision of existing knowledge, or a glorified advert for some product or service. This course though was quite definitely in the ‘new and useful’ category; it’s a very long time since I felt my mind, preconceptions and ways of working so completely stretched, challenged and altered. It has taken me a few days to return to reality, but that might have had something to do with having been hypnotised at least half a dozen times over the two days!

My colleagues on the course were a really interesting group, from a wide range of practices and backgrounds, including an endodontist, a special needs dental specialist, a therapist and many general practitioners, including some from as far afield as Germany and France.

The claimed benefits and uses of hypnosis in dentistry cover a very wide spectrum, but include management of nervous patients; treating dental phobia and needle phobia; analgesia and anaesthesia; suppression of gag reflex; better cooperation; faster healing; control of bruxism and clenching; compliance with oral hygiene instructions; attending for regular recalls; recommendations to other potential patients; dentists’ own personal development; team building and training, etc.

Most of these subjects were covered during the course, and we have all returned to our practices ready to put them into effect, but knowing we will have to practice the skills learned many times in order to become fully proficient.
On my first day back at work I managed to put two very nervous patients into a deep level of relaxation within a just a few minutes, making the procedures much more pleasant for all concerned. This included one lady who insisted that she was resistant to hypnosis and it had never worked before for her – she had come in feeling very stressed and left feeling fully relaxed and refreshed; quite a result for day one! Mind you, I did still use local, so I wasn’t quite as adventurous as one of the delegates from the previous course who had managed to complete an extraction on a patient with no anaesthetic, other than hypnoanalgesia, the very next day!
I’d thoroughly recommend all dentists, therapists and hygienists to consider becoming trained in clinical hypnosis as a fantastic way of connecting with patients to make the whole experience of dentistry much more pleasant and rewarding for everyone. There’s nothing to fear, even if you hate the sound of your own voice and think it could never relax anyone – you’d be amazed what you’re capable of doing with just a little guidance.


The IHMDP also run courses for surgeons, GPs, nurses and paramedics. The next dental hypnotherapy course is in London in February 2012, details from the IHMDP website at or call them on 0207 385 1166. The cost for the 2-day course is a very reasonable £250 if they are booked together, or £150 if you just want to take the introductory day.


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