Do you suffer from dental anxiety that prevents you from getting the care you need for your teeth? Regular dental treatment is important for oral health and overall wellness. However, many people still avoid annual check-ups and cleanings out of fear of going to the dentist. The team at Ashland Dental wants every person to get the care they need to take care of their teeth, live pain-free and have a confident smile. Our practice provides many options to help our patients with dental anxiety including leading-edge VR technology known as OperaVR. Let’s take a look out how VR is helping patients overcome anxiety and get the care they need.
OperaVR — Dentist-Designed and Dentist-Approved
Described as “digital nitrous for dental anxiety,” OperaVR headsets are a dentist-designed, dentist-approved ally in the mission to decrease patient fears and encourage regular dental care. The OperaVR headset was designed by Dr. Brian Laskin, a dentist who wanted to help his patients overcome anxiety by using VR technology to create a less-stressful experience.
Virtual reality itself has become recognized as a real asset for people outside of the dental field as well. A 2018 CNN report discussing OperaVR and other similar headsets noted that more and more companies have recognized the “sedating” distraction power of VR. In recent years, headsets have been implemented by passengers on airplanes and health and wellness companies to help clients relax. Even large corporations have begun to embrace the benefits, providing it as a perk to their employees to unwind during their downtime.
The VR Dental Experience
While VR is commonly associated with more complex equipment that includes wires, gloves and walking pads, Ashland Dental’s OperaVR headset operates with only the headset and headphones as the patient relaxes in the dental chair. Our patients report that the experience is incredibly pleasant and that it helps greatly with alleviating stress and fear during appointments. The headset is lined with padding to make it comfortable to wear for longer periods of time. It rests securely over the eyes and bridge of the nose like a pair of sunglasses without impeding breathing or communication. Its smaller size makes it easy for dentists and clinicians to treat patients while in use.
Patients can select their VR experience from a variety of options such as a day at the beach or scuba diving. Each scene includes ambient sounds and soothing music meant to enhance the experience and make it more immersive. You and your dentist will both be able to communicate even with the headset on, so there’s no worry about being “trapped” or unable to communicate during treatment.
Digital Nitrous for Dental Anxiety
A VR headset can significantly reduce dental anxiety in patients who are afraid of dental treatment. Instead of sitting in the chair watching every movement their care team makes, the patient is transported to an immersive experience of soothing sight and sound that is intended to put them at ease. Think of it a bit like meditation with visual and auditory guidance. VR doesn’t just engage and entertain. It is also associated with a reduction in pain during treatment, whether used alone or paired with medication. Since fear of pain is a common deterrent to seeking dental care, it’s easy to see why this effect is so beneficial. VR has even been shown to help patients have more positive memories after their dental experience. That means anxious patients are more likely to keep their future appointments and feel less fearful about them. We think that’s a win for everyone.
In addition to the anxiety-reducing benefits that the VR provides, there’s another bonus to VR headsets — passing time. We know we have some pretty amazing, witty and fun team members here at Ashland Dental. However, it’s pretty hard to engage with your care team while they clean your teeth or treat a cavity. You can’t exactly scroll social media or text your best friend for conversation either. Even if you decide to play your favorite podcast, that still leaves you the option of closing your eyes for the entire procedure or awkwardly staring at the ceiling and trying to avoid eye contact with your care team as they work.
We prefer our patients to have a distraction while they are treated even if they aren’t prone to dental anxiety. The more pleasant we can make the experience for every patient, the less likely those patients are to put off much-needed check-ups. Instead of trying to make patterns on the ceiling tiles or unsuccessfully nap with a water pick in your mouth, you can relax on the beach, peruse a forest, or deep dive with tropical fish. We know it can get tiresome in the chair, so we try our best to make the time fly by. OperaVR helps us do just that!