New: Virtual reality frees patients from pain and anxiety when visiting the dentist

Doctors are examining the use of VR glasses for dental treatment
Actually, people should see a dentist at regular intervals to have their teeth checked for health. For example, the teeth can be cleaned and holes can be avoided. However, there are also many people who have great fears or even a phobia before visiting the dentist. Researchers have now found that using virtual reality can help alleviate anxiety and pain.

The University of Plymouth and University of Exeter researchers found that virtual reality reduces anxiety and phobias when visiting the dentist. This enables affected people to see a dentist and get treatment despite their fears. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "Environment and Behavior".

Patients use a VR headset when visiting the dentist
The research team worked with a dental practice for the current study. The experts wanted to determine whether the use of virtual reality would make the dentist's visit more bearable for patients with anxiety. For this purpose, the participants wore a VR headset during the visit to the dentist, which gave them a virtual walk on the beach, the experts explain. Alternatively, they could choose to walk through an anonymous virtual city.

Virtual walk on the beach reduces anxiety and pain
The virtual treatment can easily be carried out in the dentist's practice. When the patients took a virtual walk on the beach, they experienced less anxiety and less pain, the authors explain. In addition, these people also had a more positive attitude towards treatment one week after the dentist's visit compared to patients receiving standard treatment, the scientists add.

A virtual walk through a city did not lead to the previously determined advantages
The doctors were also able to determine that it is not enough to put patients in virtual reality in general. When the participants visited an unknown city in virtual reality, they did not experience the same advantages as a virtual visit to the beach. The walk through the virtual city did not lead to the expected improved results, the researchers say. The reason for this is that the distraction is not strong enough. The environment must be inviting and relaxing for the patient, explains author Dr. Sabine Pahl from the University of Plymouth.

People are particularly relaxed when they are at the virtual sea
It would be interesting to transfer this approach to other contexts in which people use virtual reality, for example at work or for various health problems, the scientists say. Water seems to have a particularly strong influence in virtual reality. People were happiest or most relaxed when they were at the virtual sea, explains author Dr. Mathew White from the University of Exeter. This finding could be used to help people in potentially stressful health contexts.

Does virtual reality have a calming effect similar to the right nature?
There have been other studies that have examined the positive impact of nature on humans. For example, a study from South Korea found that workers who saw the forest from their office while working felt less stress and were generally more satisfied with their work, the experts say.

Walks through the forest improve short-term memory
Actual walks through the forest relax the human mind. The researchers found that such walks improve short-term memory by 20 percent. The team is now hoping to determine how virtual reality can relieve pain and stress for patients in other medical situations, the experts explain. (as)

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