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Virtual reality: the first non-pharmacological analgesic

virtual reality dentistry

In a not too distant scenario, dentistry could resort to virtual reality. A new way to “distract” those patients, including many children, who are afraid of the dentist.

There are several stages of odontophobia (fear of the dentist): you can go from a mild fear to distress states that are difficult to control. It should be added, moreover, that only in some cases the patient is aware of his own dental phobia, while in other cases the fear of the dentist remains latent.

In both situations, however, the direct consequence of the anxiety generated by the idea of a dental visit is to neglect the health of one’s mouth, with serious repercussions on general well-being.

To alleviate all the symptoms of dental phobia, such as tremor, sweat, tachycardia, uncontrolled movements of the arms and legs, dentistry has studied new sedative techniques including that of conscious sedation; which, in the near future, could be joined by, for the milder cases, virtual reality.

Conscious sedation

Conscious sedation was born as an alternative to traditional anesthetic.

As its definition indicates, conscious sedation keeps the patient in a state of consciousness and at the same time envelops him in a feeling of complete relaxation: he will not perceive fear, pain, the passage of time. The dentist will be able to carry out the operation relying on the full collaboration of the patient, who however will not feel any pain because he lacks the reactivity of some of his motor functions (such as that of the pharyngeal reflex).

The effect wears off at the end of the intervention thanks to the work of the anesthesiologist. The organism resumes its functions immediately and is not damaged or intoxicated in any way.

Virtual reality

Conscious sedation clearly remains the preferred narcotic technique, especially in severe cases of odontophobia.

For fears virtual reality medicinemild or to manage anxiety, especially for younger patients, an alternative in the immediate future could be represented by virtual reality.

For some time now, virtual glasses have appeared on the market which allow the wearer to be projected into three-dimensional worlds.

The first application of these tools was playful or linked to the enjoyment of entertainment, especially in museums.

This type of technology could soon be applied also in the medical field, in dentistry precisely, to affect the emotional and psychological part of the patient and relieve anxiety.
In short, it would become a sort of “non-pharmacological analgesic”. The use of virtual glasses during dental treatment could help patients, especially children, to distract attention and place themselves in a condition of comfort and relaxation.

The contents projected inside the glasses, with their three-dimensional character, can directly involve the patient by creating that mechanism of suspension of disbelief that allows us, even in the cinematographic experience, to estrange ourselves from the reality that surrounds us.

For patients, especially the smaller ones, the intervention would be less stressful and certainly more pleasant.

Clearly, as already mentioned above, it is a useful solution to manage mild fears or non-serious anxiety states. For proven cases of severe dental phobia, conscious sedation is still the only viable solution.

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