Hypnotizability, absorption and negative cognitions as predictors of dental anxiety: two pilot studies


J Am Dent Assoc. 2007 Sep;138(9):1242-50
DiClementi JD, Deffenbaugh J, Jackson D.
Department of Psychology, Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, 2101 E. Coliseum, Fort Wayne, IN 46805, USA.



The authors conducted two pilot studies that investigated the roles of hypnotizability, absorption (defined as the ability to maintain focused attention on a task or stimulus) and state versus trait anxiety as predictors of dental anxiety. One of the studies also examined the effectiveness of hypnosis in managing dental anxiety.


Participants in study 1 completed measures of hypnotizability and anxiety, viewed a video of a dental procedure either under hypnosis or not, and completed dental anxiety questionnaires. Participants in study 2 were told either that the video showed major dental work or a routine polishing. All subjects watched the video and then completed measures assessing their perceptions of the video and their anxiety.


The authors found a positive relationship between hypnotizability and scores on the Dental Anxiety Scale (DAS) (F(1,290) = 3.45, P = .06), as well as an interaction between hypnotizability and hypnosis (F(1,290) = 6.55, P = .01). An analysis of covariance found a relationship between trait and dental anxiety (F(1,290) = 11.50; P = .001). A two-way analysis of variance found a main effect for hypnosis (F(1,290) = 3.20, P = .07). The authors found an effect for group on the DAS (F(1,228) = 3.67, P = .057), such that subjects in the negative-cognition group scored higher on the DAS. The authors found an interaction between absorption and cognition in perceptions of pain experienced by the patient in the video (F(1,228) = 3.70, P = .05) and in ratings of one's own pain level if in the same situation (F(1,228) = 4.38, P < .05).


Hypnotizability or absorption, pre-existing anxiety and cognitions about dental procedures predict dental anxiety, and hypnosis may be helpful for some, but not all, patients.


Characteristics such as hypnotizability, trait anxiety and negative cognitions predict which people develop dental anxiety and who will be more responsive to hypnosis. The authors provide suggestions for dentists treating anxious patients.