Hypnosis for children undergoing dental treatment

Children are often anxious or non-compliant during dental treatment. Anecdotal evidence as well as published articles indicate hypnosis can be used with great effect in paediatric behavioural management. The aim of this review was therefore to see what evidence there is to support the use of hypnosis with children and adolescents undergoing dental procedures. Only three randomised controlled trials (with 69 participants) fulfilled the inclusion criteria for this review. Two of these three studies reported positive outcomes in favour of hypnosis however statistical analysis and meta-analysis were not possible due to insufficient studies meeting the inclusion criteria.

Authors' conclusions: 

Although there are a considerable number of anecdotal accounts indicating the benefits of using hypnosis in paediatric dentistry, on the basis of the three studies meeting the inclusion criteria for this review there is not yet enough evidence to suggest its beneficial effects.

Read the full abstract...

Managing children is a challenge that many dentists face. Many non-pharmacological techniques have been developed to manage anxiety and behavioural problems in children, such us: 'tell, show & do', positive reinforcement, modelling and hypnosis. The use of hypnosis is generally an overlooked area, hence the need for this review.


This systematic review attempted to answer the question: What is the effectiveness of hypnosis (with or without sedation) for behaviour management of children who are receiving dental care in order to allow successful completion of treatment?
Null hypothesis: Hypnosis has no effect on the outcome of dental treatment of children.

Search strategy: 

We searched the Cochrane Oral Health Group's Trials Register, CENTRAL, MEDLINE (OVID), EMBASE (OVID), and PsycINFO. Electronic and manual searches were performed using controlled vocabulary and free text terms with no language restrictions. Date of last search: 11th June 2010.

Selection criteria: 

All children and adolescents aged up to 16 years of age. Children having any dental treatment, such as: simple restorative treatment with or without local anaesthetic, simple extractions or management of dental trauma.

Data collection and analysis: 

Information regarding methods, participants, interventions, outcome measures and results were independently extracted, in duplicate, by two review authors. Authors of trials were contacted for details of randomisation and withdrawals and a quality assessment was carried out. The methodological quality of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) was assessed using the criteria described in the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions 5.0.2.

Main results: 

Only three RCTs (with 69 participants) fulfilled the inclusion criteria. Statistical analysis and meta-analysis were not possible due to insufficient number of studies.