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Virtual Reality May Be the Solution to Dental Anxiety

Dental patients enjoy long walk on the beach according to a news study from the University of Plymouth, Exeter and Birmingham and published in the journal of Environment & Behavior.

The study was conducted to determine if virtual reality could help improve the patient experience during common treatments like tooth extractions and fillings that often cause anxiety. The patients were split into groups with one receiving treatment as normal as the control group, one used virtual reality to walk through a random city and the third used virtual reality to stroll along Wembury beach in Devon, England.

Interestingly enough, the findings discovered that it wasn’t enough to just use virtual reality in any setting to improve the experience because the participants that walked through a city environment showed no notable changes in anxiety, pain level or experience. However, the patients who walked along the beach reported less pain, less anxiety and a more positive experience even when they were asked a week later.

The Current State of Dental Anxiety Worldwide

Dental anxiety for patients has been a concern for as long as dentistry has been around. Statistics provided by the Oral Health Foundation and National Smile Month say that over half the adults in the United Kingdom are afraid of the dentist while 12 percent of them have an extreme level of anxiety, possibly a phobia. When asked what makes people most nervous, visiting the dentist came in first place, even beating the common fear of heights.

Columbia University’s College of Dental Medicine says that 40 million Americans avoid the dentist due to anxiety or fear. This anxiety behind dental visits seems to be a worldwide problem.

Sedation Dentistry May Not be the Solution for All Patients

The dental community has made huge strides in recent decades to address the fears and concerns of their patients said Dr. Bryan Schwartz, DDS, a biomimetic and biological dentist in Pewaukee, Wisconsin.

"Many dentists have introduced sedation dentistry in their practices to give those who truly avoid treatment because of their fears a chance to be physically healthy while respecting their mental health," he said. "But not everyone wants to utilize this type of treatment, nor can everyone afford it. I think it’s great that non-traditional solutions like virtual reality are being studied so we can help everyone get the care they need in a comfortable way."

Sedation dentistry is typically offered in various levels depending on the severity of the anxiety and the treatments needed. For some, an anxiety-reducing medication is all that is required before during and after a treatment. For others with extreme anxiety or phobias who require extensive treatment due to years of avoiding appointments, IV sedation is possible and the dentist can actually perform several hours’ worth of dental work in just one visit.

Technology in dentistry improves patient experience 

Technology is evolving every day, every hour and every minute all around the world. Dental practices are constantly finding ways to incorporate new technology into their practices for treatment and medical enhancement, along with patient experience.

"Some practices offer televisions at each chair with Netflix or other streaming services so patients can choose their own shows," said Schwartz. "Others customize music playlists and room temperatures based on each patients’ preferences. As technology continues to evolve, dentists will be constantly looking for ways to incorporate it into their practices to improve the patient experience and help them feel comfortable and relaxed."

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Tuesday, 20 February 2018

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