Are you afraid of the dentist?

Free Public Lecture, April 20 at 6 p.m. shows ways to prevent and cope with dental anxiety.

Tarwinder Rai - 18 April 2017

If you're anything like Milica Milic and you're afraid of needles, the last thing on your mind is visiting a dental office.

Well, at least it was until she met University of Alberta professor and head of periodontology Liran Levin, who practices the management of dental anxiety using medical hypnosis.

Nothing like what you see in the movies, medical hypnosis boosts relaxation through a learned experience that with practice the patient finds ways to reduce and eliminate stress and allow for a pleasant dental treatment experience. According to Levin, it's about teaching a patient how to get into a relaxed state and control their fear.

"It's a guided treatment where you are always in control. It's not about hypnotizing someone out of control, it's about patients learning how to get into that relaxed state and feel comfortable," says Levin.

Medical hypnosis is an alternative option to patients receiving medications, anesthesia or sedation to manage their dental anxiety.

For 63-year-old Milic, who had eight cavities filled without freezing because of her fear of needles, believes her phobia extends from her childhood. And while she admits, she will probably always be somehow afraid, medical hypnosis has helped her control her fear immensely.

"My anxiety would start the day before my appointment. I was quite skeptic about this technique but it works," she says. "For me the fear is real. The phobia is real. I am not afraid of pain, but I'm afraid of needles. The first step is to tell your dentist that you have a fear. A dental visit is an entire experience, not just focused on fixing your teeth. Now I can control the fear, and that's a huge plus."

Avoiding the dentist isn't an option says Levin, who's completed a one-year training course in medical hypnosis. It will only lead to further dental complications.

To learn more about this technique and others, the School of Dentistry is hosting a free public lecture - Are you afraid of the dentist? The lecture will focus on showing ways to prevent and cope with the fear of going to the dentist.

Happening April 20 at 6 p.m. in the Allard Family Lecture Theatre in the Katz Group Centre for Pharmacy and Health Research building. Presenters include Drs. Levin, Ida Kornerup, David Kelner and Cheryl Cable.

For more information, visit