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Walks on the Beach May Help Improve Dental Anxiety

 Most people dread going to the dentist for even the most common treatments, but what if you could transport yourself to another world during the procedure? Researchers at the University of Plymouth set out to discover if using virtual reality in a dental setting could help improve patient experience and their findings were very interesting.

The study separated participants into three groups. The first group, the control group, received their dental treatments as usual with no distractions or interventions. The second group used a virtual reality headset to stroll through the streets of a random city during their procedure. The third group wore the virtual reality headsets and walked along a beach in Devon, England.

The data determined that the virtual reality was effective in distracting patients, but only in the group who took a relaxing walk on the beach. Those patients reported experiencing less pain, less anxiety and even had a more positive memory of the treatment when questioned a week later than those with no virtual reality intervention and those who strolled the city.

Dental anxiety is real and it’s affecting patient health

Dental anxiety, fear and phobias are a barrier to dental health all around the globe. In fact, most research puts the number at between 10 to 15 percent of Americans who avoid dental care because of this anxiety. For some, a bad experience in the past may have given them reasons to feel anxious said Dr. David Buck, DDS, of Balance Epigenetic Orthodontics in Lynnwood, Washington.

"The fear of pain is probably the most common cause of dental anxiety that I see in my patients," he said. "Whether a bad experience caused that fear or maybe a fear of needles or injections they’ve had their whole life, to them even a routine cleaning could awaken those fears simply by being in the office or in the exam chair."

Some Patients Choose Sedation Dentistry 

Modern medicine has thankfully found ways to help those who find a trip to the dentist so anxiety-filled that they avoid it for as long as possible, even if that means living in pain. Sedation dentistry offers those patients a way to simply relax during their procedure with the use of prescription medication for anxiety, or for the more severe cases, be placed under anesthesia for the entire process.

"While it may seem drastic," said Buck, "some patients need extensive care from avoiding treatment for many years and with the help of sedation dentistry they can have years’ worth of work done in one appointment while essentially asleep."

Technology Continues to Improve Patient Experience 

As technology continues to evolve, the future is bright for those who suffer from anxiety or phobia when it comes to dental health. With more studies and publications, virtual reality could become the reality in dental practices across the nation. In a few years, your dental appointment could be as pleasant as a walk down the beach.

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