How Virtual Reality is Changing the Game for Anxious Patients
Dental phobia, as the name suggests, is a fear of going to the dentist. There is often no legitimate basis for this fear, especially for simple procedures such as checkups, cleaning, and even fillings. These are relatively pain-free procedures for most people, but fear is often still present. Our dentists in Parramatta have helped countless patients overcome their fears, but new technology is changing the game for dental patients. Introducing Virtual Reality exposure therapy for dental fear.
Why do people fear the dentist?
There are numerous reasons why a person may be reluctant to visit the dentist. Some people’s fear stems from bad past experiences, while others may have specific dental concerns and they know treatment will be required. Also, a fear of the dentist is often picked up from a young age. Throughout society, people share their worries about the dentist. We even see it on TV shows and cartoons – the dentist with their big scary drill. So, young people can develop a fear of the dentist, which may not even be based on personal experiences.
Typically, dental phobia is either audio or visual-based. This means that people become anxious when they see dental procedures, tools or even the dentist themselves. On the audio side, the sound of the drill and other dental implements can be terrifying for patients. This is just one of the reasons virtual reality can be helpful in overcoming dental fears.
Managing dental fear with virtual reality
For many years, dentists and researchers have been studying the potential of virtual reality to help ease people’s dental phobia. The theory is that we have been managing dental phobia for many years with general anaesthetic and sedation. While this works to an extent, it does nothing to help people overcome their dental fears. It’s also extremely costly for patients.
Using virtual reality to help people cope with their fear of the dentist is chemical-free, cost-effective and much easier for patients. Much of the research stems from the idea that dental phobia is much like any other fear, and therefore, controlled exposure therapy is useful in overcoming it.
Research still continues, however, many dentists are now offering virtual reality to assist patients in overcoming fear.
How does VR exposure therapy work?
As this treatment method is still relatively new in the dental industry, there are no set rules around what’s best. But let’s take a look at one example of using VR to help people overcome fears.
For years, psychiatry has used exposure therapy to deal with fears, phobias and anxiety. In short, it involves gradually exposing a patient to something they fear, but in a controlled, safe environment. People with social anxiety, for example, are encouraged to gradually do more activities in public.
VR in dentistry is much the same thing, except without any physical pain elements. The patient wears a pair of virtual reality goggles that allow them to experience simulations of common dental procedures. The videos include everything from the sound of a dentist’s drill to the dentist’s hand approaching your mouth.
Following exposure to these situations that make people anxious, they can learn to deal with their fears more effectively, so when it comes time for the real treatment, they have a clearer understanding that there’s really nothing to fear.
Does Virtual reality work for all dental fears?
Every patient is different, so it would be incorrect to say that virtual reality will help everybody overcome the fear of the dentist. Nor can it be used to completely replace anaesthesia and sedation. Some procedures are genuinely painful, and anesthesia will still be required.
Rather, virtual reality is used to help people overcome fears that don’t necessarily involve pain. VR exposure therapy can be very useful when a person fears basic procedures such as dental checkups or cleaning.
Need safe, comforting dentists in Parramatta?
Here at Dental Avenue, we want our patients to feel as safe and comfortable as possible. We offer a range of techniques to help you overcome any fear of visiting the dentist. You’re in complete control of your treatment, and our dentists are experts in making you feel relaxed. As your local dentist in Parramatta, we are here for your whole family’s oral health needs. Contact us today if you want to regain control of your dental health in a safe, welcoming environment.