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VIRTUAL REALITY: Changing the paradigm of Dentistry

Don’t be too quick to think virtual reality (VR) is not for your dental practice. Recent studies are revealing that VR can decrease the perception of pain in patients, and this can lead to scheduling more treatment.

1. Virtual reality (VR) has the ability to remove the association of fear, pain, and anxiety during patients’ dental visits, and the results have been positive.

VR will immerse your patients into other worlds. They can view scenes that will help them feel relaxed and calm during a procedure. Patients will be less anxious and fidgety, which will allow you to treat them more efficiently. With more efficiency you can develop a more fluid process. Bottom line, you may increase revenue by either treating more patients or using the extra time administratively.

A study was conducted on the effects of distraction using VR on pain perception and anxiety levels in children during pulp therapy of primary molars. Forty children between the ages of four and eight with no previous anxiety disorders were randomly chosen and divided into two groups. The study consisted of three consecutive treatment sessions. Two groups received pulp therapy, one with and one without VR, and their pain levels were assessed. The results of the study showed a significant decrease of pain perception and anxiety scores with the use of VR during dental treatment.

2.  You can use less nitrous oxide. The pain relief during procedures using VR measured twice the pain relief of morphine.

There was a study done in a burn unit during which patients had their bandages changed. Normal protocol is to use morphine, which gives a patient a 30% reduction in pain. Patients immersed in VR showed a 70% reduction in pain with no medication.

Patients reported significantly less pain when their thoughts were redirected through the use of VR. Six patients who said they felt fully immersed in the VR experience reported the greatest pain reduction. These patients went from severe pain without VR to mild pain with VR.

Dentists who have used VR report little or no use of nitrous oxide to relax their patients. They’ve experienced benefits such as lower expenses, administering fewer drugs to patients, showing patients that they’re innovative, and demonstrating that they care about the opioid drug epidemic and are part of the solution.

A recent study finds that some teens and young adults are initially exposed to opioids at the dentist. The study reports that 80% of patients ages 13 to 30 filled an opioid prescription after having their wisdom teeth removed. The report found that 7% of teens and young adults who were prescribed opioids at their dentist’s office continued to take more of the drugs. More than 5% went on to abuse opioids.

3. VR is the premiere venue that will make your business stand out as a welcoming office.

VR reflects concern for patient welfare, allows you to treat patients who become more relaxed and calmer, reduces patient anxiety and stress, reduces procedural time and gives the doctor more flexibility, and decreases the potential for opioid addiction among patients.

4. Distinguish your practice by offering an awe-inspiring virtual reality entertainment package.

In a recent study, it was reported that the global VR health-care market size was valued at $568.7 million in 2016 and expected to grow 29.1% over the next 10 years. Virtual reality is the future of health care. It’s an opportunity for dentists to be innovative and become known as leaders in their profession. Not to mention, they’ll be known as premiere and innovative dentists. Patients will talk about these practices and recommend their dentists to their friends and families. This will place these dental practices at the top.

5. Improve profitability in your practice by encouraging your patients to book needed procedures by being able to reduce their fear and anxiety.

Another study conducted called “Virtual reality exposure therapy for the treatment of dental phobia” demonstrated that VR showed a significant decrease in dental anxiety scores and behavioral avoidance. Four of five VR participants booked an appointment, while none of the non-VR participants booked appointments.

Virtual reality is the future of dentistry and it’s your opportunity to be part of a cutting-edge trend. You can decrease stress and anxiety in your patients, lessen pain, become more profitable by booking needed appointments, and distinguish yourself as an innovator.

article published in DentistryIQ

January 14, 2020

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