University of Alberta dentistry student conquers needle phobia with hypnotherapy and tattoo

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It might’ve only been a chicken breast and needle, but it was enough to bring Aislinn Khuong to tears.


As a second year University of Alberta dentistry student, Khuong’s first attempt at injecting anesthesia left her frazzled courtesy of her needle phobia.


Flash forward two years, Khuong is set to graduate Friday having conquered her fears of holding and using a needle thanks to support from her teachers, a dose of hypnotherapy and a tattoo.


“It wasn’t a snap of the fingers by any means,” said Khuong, who used hypnotherapy to deal with her childhood phobia. “It actually didn’t work at first. My anxiety was too great to overcome even in hypnotherapy.”


Khuong’s mentor Tom Stevenson, division head of oral surgery, said the 26-year-old’s fears were nothing more than a stumbling block on the path to a great career as a dentist.


“I was really worried about it, not as much as she wouldn’t succeed, but it was just a really tough problem,” he said.


With just a few days left in her program, Khuong’s teachers say she can expertly administer needles with no problem, using skills she learned in both school and hypnotherapy to keep her cool.


Khuong has tattooed her fingers, marking the exact spot where she holds the needle, as a reminder that she’s in control of the tool.


“I’m happy when I get people who are scared of needles in my chair because maybe I can change that for them,” she said.

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