Photo: Old Shoe Woman (flickr)
A reader wrote in with this question: I really, really, really hate going to the dentist. If I need a filling or root canal, I’m literally terrified. What can I do to make the experience less frightening?
Here’s the answer:
I’m sure many of our readers share similar fears. You might want to try hypnosis. You may have known that dentists use nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, to sedate patients.
Some dentists believe that laughing gas makes patients more suggestible. In other words, going under makes you more open to being hypnotized and made to believe that the treatment won’t be painful, which in turn helps you relax.
Scientists at University College in London wanted to further research the matter. They had thirty study participants breathe through gas masks. Some inhaled regular air and some received nitrous oxide.
Then, the participants were tested for imaginative suggestibility. For example, they were told to imagine tasting something sour, and that the sour taste in their mouth would get stronger. The study found that laughing gas increased imaginative suggestibility by about ten percent.
Perhaps hypnosis is the cure for dental phobia. More research needs to be done to see if different amounts of nitrous oxide work better than others. But it seems to be a positive step towards making dental work less frightening.