August 26, 2008

Hypnotherapy Helps Beat Fear of Dentist

By Helen Collis

A dentist frustrated at the lack of support for patients with phobias has introduced hypnotherapy to overcome anxieties and even block out pain.

Dr Mitesh Badiani felt patients were not offered any alternative treatment if they were too afraid of visiting the dentist, be it because of a fear of needles, the dentist's chair, the sound of drilling and even the smell of a practice.

He said the only option for patients was a referral to hospital where they were put under general anaesthetic and their problem teeth removed, rather than treated.

"I have realised over the years that there's a massive need for patients to undergo treatment without such high anxiety levels, because the alternatives available are very limited," he said.

Dr Badiani, who runs Victoria Road Dental Practice in Plymouth and Croydon House Dental Implant Centre in Ashburton, South Devon, said there were methods of giving a person anaesthesia, such as the "wand", which delivers a pain-free injection via a computer, but still no procedures offered as standard to tackle the underlying anxiety.

This meant that for many people every trip to the dentist was a terrifying ordeal and many avoided it altogether.

Figures released by the NHS Information Centre last week show a rise in the number of treatments involving tooth extractions and dentures at NHS dentists and a fall in the more complex crowns and fillings. The easier treatments help cover NHS costs, but Dr Badiani says patient wellbeing and comfort are at the top of his agenda.

"Five years ago I decided the only thing I could bring in to tackle this was hypnotherapy, so I contacted the top hypnotherapist in the country, John Butler," he said.

Mr Butler, head of the Clinical and Dental Hypnosis Society, has been working with Dr Badiani to develop a flexible programme for patients that allows them to choose alternative practices, including aromatherapy and hypnotherapy, to overcome their fears.

Dr Badiani said many patients developed a fear of visiting the dentist at a young age and the anxiety kicked in as soon as they walked through the door.

This was the case for Paula Wardle, 36, of Whitleigh, Plymouth, who avoided visiting a dentist for more than 20 years, but was forced back into the surgery to take her young children for check- ups. Even this was too much for her and during her son's routine procedure the dentist noticed her anxiety attack.

Mrs Wardle said: "I remember being asked if I wanted to leave the room - I was sweating and panting like a dog."

Her dentist, Kate Halt, offered her the new hypnotherapy treatment and she agreed. It took Mrs Wardle several visits, meeting Mr Butler and Max Rangeley the practice hypnotherapist.

She was given some tapes and listened to them each night, practicing deep relaxation techniques until she felt ready to face her fear, and eventually Dr Halt was able to give Mrs Wardle a thorough clean and later some fillings. Now Mrs Wardle says can never look back and she has a tool for life in hypnotherapy.

Mr Rangeley, who was taught hypnotherapy by Mr Butler, acts as a supportive friend throughout the programme, offering help and advice at any time. He said: "The power of the mind is a lot more incredible than most people realise. It's possible to overcome fears and block out pain."