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Edmonton dentist practises medical hypnosis to help ease patients’ fears

WATCH ABOVE: For many, just walking into a dentist's office can make them tremble with fear. Su-Ling Goh looks at how hypnosis is providing relief for some who have anxiety about going to the dentist.

Many people suffer from some degree of dental phobia and it’s those fears that keep some from seeing a dentist at all.

But one Edmonton dentist has decided to do something about it.

Dr. Liran Levin, who heads up the University of Alberta’s Division of Periodontology, practices medical hypnosis and says it isn’t like anything you see in the movies – the practice is rooted in deep relaxation.

“It’s the tone of the speech, the way you’re presenting things, the words that you’re selecting – all have influence on the overall experience,” Levin said.

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According to Levin, hypnosis opens a patient’s mind to suggestions that create positive reactions. He studied hypnosis in a year-long program designed especially for medical professionals.

“I was amazed to see how much the brain actually controls what we’re thinking – so teaching the patient how to control their thoughts and getting them to relax can really do magic.”

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Patient Milica Milic is a convert.

“You start feeling numbness and then you concentrate on the numbness. You never ever think about the needle,” Milic explained. “I can control the fear and for me, that’s a huge plus.”

At one point, she was so scared of needles, she had eight cavities filled without any freezing. Her fear stemmed from childhood medical procedures but avoiding injections became impossible.

That’s when she met Dr. Levin.

“It can vary from people who are afraid of going to the dentist but still go, to those who avoid dental visits because of their anxiety,” Levin said. “In our past studies, we saw that those patients have a lot more complications with dental-related issues and obviously cavities and periodontal diseases.”

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There are other alternatives like sedation or anaesthesia.

“But in my opinion it’s better to treat the root of the problem than to put you to sleep,” Levin added. “It’s really giving you the tools to cope with your own fears.”

A free information session on hypnosis will be held April 20 at 6 p.m. MT inside the Katz Group Centre at the University of Alberta.