Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

Saturday, April 24, 1999 Published at 23:10 GMT 00:10 UK


Hypnotising the pain away

Many people are afraid of the dentist

Hypnosis can help to cut down the use of general anaesthesia in surgery, a hypnotherapy conference will hear.

On Sunday, Dr Robert Diaz an oral and facial surgeon at Manchester Royal Infirmary will tell the British Society of Experimental and Clinical Hypnosis that hypnotherapy can give patients a more pleasant experience in surgery and could cut NHS spending.

He has conducted research on patients having their wisdom teeth extracted.

Twenty patients were given sedation with valium and another 20 were given sedation plus hypnosis.

Recovery time after surgery was almost halved for those given hypno-sedation - down from 50 to 32 minutes - and the patients were more relaxed during surgery, said Dr Diaz.

Their heart rate was dramatically lower, suggesting they were less stressed.


Wisdom teeth are normally removed under general anaesthetic which can be dangerous and unpleasant for patients.

Dr Diaz says around 6% of patients undergo sedation to have their teeth extracted.

[ image:  ]
Using hypnosis as well could increase the numbers, he says.

"We used conversational hypnosis, outlining an image of a comfortable, relaxing place and using the noises from outside, for example, suggesting the air conditioning was waves on a beach or the wind."

The patients were only offered hypnosis when they came in for surgery.

"Hypnosis is a reasonable treatment option which can reduce the number of general anaesthetics given and increase safety," he said.

"It could also save the NHS money as anaesthesia is expensive and patients have to stay longer in hospital afterwards, possibly overnight."

Dr Diaz only started using hypnosis last year and now uses it routinely.

In control

Several dentists and doctors have incorporated the technique into their work for many years.

Dentist John Gladstone says he has used it for more than 30 years. He started because he was terrified of the dentist's chair himself and wanted to help his patients.

"There are no chemicals involved and the patient is in control the whole time," he said. They are not unconscious, just relaxed."

One of his patients, Liz Cooper, said she was sceptical at first when Dr Gladstone suggested hypnotherapy when she had extensive crown work done.

"I was aware of what was going on, but not of any sensation of pain," she said.

The British Society of Experimental and Clinical Hypnosis says new restrictions on the use of general anaesthetics in dentistry following a string of deaths are a good argument for it to be made available to many more people.

The society represents around 300 professionally qualified hypnotists including psychologists, speech therapists, doctors and dentists.

Under new rules introduced by the General Dental Council five months ago, only fully qualified anaesthetists can use general anaesthesia on patients.

The British Dental Association, which has issued advice to dentists on how to gain hypnosis information and training, welcomed a call for an increase in the use of hypnosis in dentistry.

Spokeswoman Kate Cinamon said: "We would welcome wider use of hypnosis to relax patients who are anxious, but many dentists do not use it because it can be very time-consuming."

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Health Contents

Background Briefings
Medical notes

Relevant Stories

23 Apr 99 | Health
'No link between hypnotism and madness'

23 Apr 99 | Health
The power of mind over matter

16 Nov 98 | Health
Anaesthesia restrictions for dentists

11 Nov 98 | Medical notes
UK dental anaesthesia - a practice out of time

Internet Links

British Dental Association

Dentistry Online

Hypnotherapy links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Disability in depth

Spotlight: Bristol inquiry

Antibiotics: A fading wonder

Mental health: An overview

Alternative medicine: A growth industry

The meningitis files

Long-term care: A special report

Aids up close

From cradle to grave

NHS reforms: A guide

NHS Performance 1999

From Special Report
NHS in crisis: Special report

British Medical Association conference '99

Royal College of Nursing conference '99