Therapeutic Touch in the Dental Office
by Helen Spangenberg, B.Sc., M.Sc., C.D.A.

It has been over two years now since I started using TT in a dental environment. A last minute decision to include TT on my resume was actually what attracted attention to me and got me in the door as a dental assistant. Switching careers is never easy, but thanks to TT, I have been able to get into an area that is highly competitive for employment. I had previously been working in nutritional research at Victoria Hospital in London, and felt extremely lucky to find a job that related to my M.Sc. degree. When the funding axe fell, and I knew I would be out of a job, I decided to leave research and get into a more people-oriented health care related field. I never imagined that I would be able to combine my knowledge of nutrition and TT with my new training in dental assisting all in one job, but this is exactly what I have been able to do. I work primarily as a dental assistant, but I also provide nutritional counselling and TT inthe dental office.

I very seldom get the chance to provide a complete TT treatment for clients due to the time constraints of a busy dental clinic.

The clinic is a group practice providing all types of dental care ranging from hygiene to regular dental work, orthodontics and surgery. We work extended hours including weekday evenings and Saturdays which attracts a lot of people in need of emergency care as well.

In this type of environment, there is always an application for TT.

TT is offered free of charge, primarily as a way to help clients to relax and feel more comfortable, or to help with recovery from surgical procedures.

I tell the client that I am a recognized practitioner of TT and ask them if they would be interested in receiving TT to help them to relax. I tell them that it will appear that I am moving my hands along their body and ask them to focus ontheir breathing. I don't go into a long explanation of TT or use words like energy field. I have found that this tends to be alienating for people. Instead, we have a prepared sheet to give to the client afterwards which outlines what TT is, what it can do, and that anyone can learn it.

When I am asked how I use TT in the dental office, I find it difficult to summarize briefly because it has become such a part of me that it pervades nearly everything I do. The simplest answer I can give is that I use it to make things run smoothly and calmly and to keep clients at ease. Answering the "how" part is a little more complicated.

I think it will be easiest for me to answer this if I try to do it in the order that new uses came up for me as I worked. The first position I held in the office was as a "floating assistant". Not all offices have this position, but due to the size and pace of our clinic we often need one. A floating assistant is not tied to one dentist, but can move freely from room to room to assist in any way that is needed. In this role, I was able to spend time with dentists and hygenists who needed extra assistance or with emergency clients for example, who needed extra attention that the regular chairside assistant didn't have time to provide. As that extra pair of hands, I was often called upon to help calm anxious clients in a variety of situations.

With anxious clients, I could be called in to help them relax at any point during dental treatment. The most effective time is early one, prior to the administration of local anesthetic. Sometimes, due to time constraints, the only opportunity is after the anesthetic has been administered and while there is a pause for it to take effect. Anxiety can greatly slow down the effectiveness of anesthesia, so the dentists are appreciative of TT for its ability o help the client relax. Everything goes more smoothly when the people involved are relaxed.

I must emphasize that my role is not to "take away the fear", because fear can be very complex, and is integral to the past experiences of the client. I am only offering TT as a way to assist clients to cope with their fear and not be controlled by their fear. The other key point is the fact that TT is offered. If a client does not wish to be assisted to relax in this manner, I don't do it. Sometimes all I am permitted to do is to comfort them and help them to breathe more deeply. Even this small thing can help empower the client.

At times, I have been called in when a dental procedure is already underway and a client is overwhelmed by anxiety. In this situation, after a brief introduction, I am positioned by the client's feet (out of the way of the dentist and chairside assistant) to establish and maintain grounding as the dental procedure continues to completion. I find it very helpful to visualize clearing over the chest and abdomen, as it is often this area that becomes congested with fear. Observation of the client's breathing, facial colour, expression and hand position gives me constant feedback as to how well the client is coping. Occasionally I have been required to remain in position until the dental procedure is complete, but more often it is enough to ground for only a few minutes until the client has regained their composure.

Clients have made spontaneous comments like "I can breathe better now" or "I feel like a weight lifted off my chest" or "I'm still a little nervous, but it doesn't bother me so much now." Some have asked me to "do that think you do that makes me relax." Some have even made a point of scheduling their appointments on days that I am working because they feel better when I am around. I remember a few instances when clients commented that they were disappointed if I wasn't present.

It didn't take me long to realize that often it was just as important to assist the dentist or hygienist to relax and not just the client. By visualizing the dentist as included in the grounding or by visualizing a bubble of blue light around the dentist, assistant and client, I could be much more effective. The dentist was aware of the effect my presence was having and appreciative. Dentists have commented that they could feel a sense of calm in the air or that suddenly they were relaxed and no longer nervous about how a procedure was going!

I also have used TT after surgical procedures to help speed recovery. This typically takes only a few moments of clearing, grounding, and offering a "ball of white light" near the surgical site. Clients are given an envelope of cotton gauze squares after an extraction and I energize these squares as I fill the envelope. These can be prepared ahead of time if possible. I have noticed that there seem to be fewer complaints of complications such as slow healing of infection with the clients that I have had an opportunity to assist. (Unfortunately, I didn't consistently record TT on the chart, so I can't provide any numbers to support this.) Now that I am working primarily as a chairside assistant with a single dentist, I have had to modify how I use TT. I don't have a s much freedom or time to be able to focus so intently on TT. Since my hands are most often occupied with other things, most of what I do is with visualization and "blue-lighting" the environment.

I still have the opportunity to offer TT after the anesthetic is given or after a surgical procedure, but during dental procedures, I can only use visualization. I still have to keep my mind primarily on my dental duties, but I can still keep the environment calm for everyone. TT begins even before I get to work, because I visualize the whole clinic blue-lighted as I am driving there. I have also found TT helpful for the rest of the staff. They have all come to me individually with complaints such as headaches, back aches, muscle spasms etc. It has been through these interactions that many have come to appreciate TT. Currently one other assistant and a hygienist at our clinic have taken the first level of TT training. There were other staff that attended this TT training as well, but they have moved on to other offices. I am trying to imagine what it would be like in a dental office without TT. I can't imagine what my life would be.

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