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Del Morrill, M.S. C.C.H


A Center for Counseling & Hypnosis
Tacoma, Washington, USA
(253) 752-1506

Dental Fear & Trauma


     I have been contacted by the mother of a ten year old who has had a traumatic experience at the dentist and also the hospital in a bid to extract two adult teeth to allow for more room in her mouth.  Although extraction by general anaesthesia has been offered, mum would prefer to go with the initial plan, i.e, giving pain-killing injections.

    Originally the child was given a total of 9 injections, due to becoming hysterical and stating she could still feel pain.  She then went to the hospital where she was anaesthetized. However, she   had to be brought round quickly as she had started to vomit.  Mum is concerned that there might have been something 'in' the anaesthetic that  triggered the vomiting. Mum feels bad because she told the child it wouldn't hurt and it did. 

     That's the background.  I feel it's a tall order.  I am not convinced that I can over-ride the child's fear - I believe that I can work with her in order to get her back into the dentist's chair ... but ?  I have been in the child and mum's company three times now. I have no child specific scripts.  I did a relaxation session with Mum, in the child's presence; but there is an unknown in how I work from the child's perspective.  I then took the child on a magic carpet ride and let her fill in her travel details.  This she did - though she 'returned' to the room a few times to “check” on Mum (Mum kept her own eyes closed).  I could see that the little one was anxious.

     The child is entranced with my dog, Bear, which I see as a plus and initiator of rapport-building. I feel that my dog, or thoughts, of my dog can be used - even to the extent of a piece of fur-fabric to rub as a post-hypnotic reminder.

      Would you mind giving me your 'take' on this situation - how would you handle it? Do you have suggestions that would help me know how to work further with this child and her family?


      It seems to me that  you are a naturall for working with children.  You've already had some fine ideas.  Just keep going.  Here are a few ideas off the top of my head.  Perhaps they will be helpful in future sessions. 

1.  Remember that every incident leaves imprints on the mind, along with the emotions.  Therefore, it’s important first to ask the deeper mind to seek out all of the imprints that are causing the fear of the dentists and needs, and to change them into something more helpful to the child, now.

2.  You can talk to the child-self (that particular age and time) who had the initial experience, and assure her that she is now just fine, that anything in the past is simply a group of memories which can’t hurt you – you’re now older and more experienced, and brave enough to able to handle everything better than you did when you were a little younger.

3.  You can make use of your dog, Bear, by having the child imagine herself going through the experience she will have with the dentist, with Bear keeping her company, keeping her from harm, petting him in her imagination (using the dog, or fur-fabric, while the child is hypnotized, to lock in the memory of the fur).

4.  You can use the numbed hand technique, where she learns to numb her hand (in her imagination) in a bucket of cold water (Does she like baseball? Pitchers have to keep their elbows in ice when on the bench between innings. I realize baseball isn’t your national pastime there, but perhaps there is another sport that could be the analogy, in which a player must ice in order to keep going and have the courage to “finish the game.”) The child is able to place her numbed hand where the needle will go and where the dentist will work, transferring the numbness so she doesn’t feel the pain. Or she can pretend to be leading sled dogs in Alaska, where it is very cold and you can' feel anything until you warm up.

5.  You can use "Bear" to travel with the child on a special trip where she has adventures requiring courage and daring.  For instance, she might meet a magician who hits her on her shoulder to transfer “courage”; or puts a magic cloak over her shoulders to remember “using” when she is in the dentist’s chair, because it is the cloak of protection and courage. You might even suggest to Mum that she find a little cloak in a costume shop, or use a special sweater, that she can wear when she goes to the dentist that he will consider her “magic cloak.”

          I would mention the word “pain” as little as possible, and get mother to “shut up!”.  Remember, you are like a doctor, and, to her, you have a doctor’s authority – therefore, you can dictate to parents what they are to do or aren’t to do, for the sake of their child.

         Some of what I mentioned is in my books on working with children.  My GREAT ESCAPES Volumes I, IV and VII are all about scripts to use with children and pre-teens.  You’ll find the table of contents for each on my e-store at www.hypnocenter.com.






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