I have a confession to make: I am terrified of the dentist. So terrified that I once ran out of the room during a root canal. My mouth was numb and full of cotton, but I flew out of the office faster than you can say Novocaine. Yes, I was a grown woman. Yes, a lot of people stared at me. Yes, the receptionist probably wanted to check me into a mental hospital. But, phobias often get the best of us, don’t they?
In the end, my endodontist gave me Valium to get me back in the chair. It did work for me. But, for those who prefer to go a non-pharmaceutical route, here is some good news: Researchers in the United Kingdom have found that virtual reality headsets might help to decrease stress and pain for dental patients.
In the study, participants underwent a dental procedure such as a tooth extraction or having a cavity filled. They divided the patients into three groups. Two groups received a virtual reality headset, which played either a relaxing beach scene or a cityscape. The other group received no headset.
The researchers found that the patients who got to relax at the “beach” reported feeling less stress and less pain, not only immediately following the appointment, but also seven days later. Wow. Pretty cool. I can tell you my Valium definitely didn’t last seven days!
While it might take some time before dentists across the globe start using virtual reality technology, the research helps to illuminate that mindfulness and relaxation are key when we are in the dentist’s chair. The next time you have a dental appointment, consider bringing your headphones and tuning your smartphone or iPod to beach-y music like calypso or Bob Marley. Your mouth might be getting drilled, but your mind can be halfway to the Virgin Islands!
[h/t: The Verge]