From Pixels to Pearly Whites: The Role of Virtual Reality in Dentistry
Cold and uncomfortable metal recliner chairs, the screeching hums of drills, and blinding white lights comprise many kids’ worst nightmare – the dentist’s office. According to the Washington Post, 40 to 75 percent of people experience some form of anxiety when going to the dentist, often leading them to postpone or even cancel their appointments. This problem is particularly common in children, who’ve had poor dental experiences or consume media that portray dentists as scary. Addressing dental anxiety in children is crucial, as it can lead to improper teeth development and early tooth loss, underscoring the importance of effective treatment. Luckily, a technological remedy is growing increasingly popular: virtual reality.
Frequently encountered in the realms of gaming and entertainment, Virtual Reality (VR) employs wearable devices and sensors to craft an immersive, simulated environment for users. With VR, individuals now have the opportunity to visit the Eiffel Tower, swim with dolphins, and enter the magical world of Harry Potter all at their fingertips. Recently, dentists have introduced VR technology into their clinics, allowing both children and adults to wear VR technology. Thus far, the outcomes have been exceedingly favorable. Research indicates that virtual reality serves as an effective distraction technique for patients, significantly enhancing their comfort and even enabling them to find enjoyment in their dental experiences. Furthermore, this VR technology has the capacity to alleviate pain. A significant aspect of pain perception is psychological and demands conscious attention. Through the use of VR technology, patients are no longer fixated on the procedures being performed, resulting in a notable reduction in pain.
The benefits of VR in dentistry aren’t just limited to alleviating dental anxiety. VR technology can enhance precision in treatment planning, enabling dentists to scan and generate a model of a patient’s mouth prior to implant installation or commencing Invisalign treatment. These virtual models may be compared and used to track oral health progress over time. Additionally, VR can enhance patient education, using interactive methods to explain various oral diseases.
While the opportunities of VR in dentistry are boundless, there are certain limitations that must be considered. When using VR technology with younger patients, communication may be more difficult due to increased distractions. In fact, the use of VR may unintentionally promote the stereotype that dentists are scary and thereby necessitate distractions. Furthermore, a crucial part of dental clinics is the sterilization of all materials and instruments, so it is important to ensure that all VR technologies comply with these standards. Lastly, the use of VR raises ethical concerns, so it is important to receive consent before employing certain technologies. Despite these downsides, the role of VR in dentistry will continue to grow rapidly. It is only a matter of time before virtual reality becomes commonplace in dental clinics worldwide.
Edited by: AJ Adams
Designed By: Ashleigh Waterman