For people with dental anxiety, even a procedure as standard as a simple filling can sound like a horrifying experience — so horrifying that some people even avoid the procedure entirely, preferring to allow their dental conditions to worsen rather than visit the dentist.
But what if you didn’t have to visit the dentist at all, but could instead visit a lovely, peaceful beach? After all, studies have repeatedly shown that exposure to nature can reduce anxiety and calm people who are experiencing fear.
Of course, a beach is no place to perform a hygienic and controlled dental procedure. But virtual reality can give patients the feeling of being at the beach while they’re actually in the dentist’s chair. A team of UK scientists wanted to explore whether or not virtual reality environments could help reduce dental anxiety and make it easier for patients who fear the dentist to receive the treatment they need.
A Virtual Beach for Dental Patients
The scientists who performed the experiments referred to this potential treatment for anxiety as the “bottled nature” approach, believing that virtual reality allows dentists to essentially “bottle” the calming effect of nature and bring it into the dentist’s office.
To perform the study, 70 patients were divided into three groups. The first group received regular dental care, the second group received that care while experiencing an urban environment by way of virtual reality, and the third group experienced a nature environment — in this case, a virtual recreation of Wembury Beach, near Plymouth. By including an urban environment, the researchers hoped to determine whether any benefit was simply due to patients being distracted, or whether nature itself was part of the benefit.
Interestingly, the difference between the standard care group and the urban environment group was almost nonexistent. However, the patients who received their care while experiencing the beach environment through virtual reality not only saw improved moods, but also a significant reduction in heart rate and blood pressure.
What Does This Mean for Anxious Patients?
Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that virtual reality devices will be available for walks on the beach at your local dentist any time soon. Although this study certainly provided promising results, it will need to be reproduced and further examined before it can truly be determined to be an effective and reliable treatment for dental anxiety.
However, until that time comes, sedation dentistry can help those with severe fear of the dentist to get the care they need. It’s easy: Your dentist will provide a medication that you take at home before the procedure. You will need someone to drive you to the dentist’s office, because you will start feeling very relaxed and have trouble focusing. Throughout the procedure, you will be conscious, but will not feel any stress or fear. In fact, you may remember very little of the procedure once the medication wears off.
Do you think sedation dentistry could help you? Talk to an experienced sedation dentist in Altamonte Springs to learn more about your options. Call (407) 834-6446 or contact us online to make an appointment.