In the last decade, many different advances in medicine have occurred. Dentistry has also benefited from newer technology. Many new innovations are continually being developed that enable practitioners to better diagnose and treat patients. Patients benefit by receiving treatment that takes place in a fraction of time and costs less. One of the many technologies changing the dentistry field is virtual reality.
Anxiety is commonly experienced by dental patients. However, studies indicate that virtual reality takes the stress out of being in the dentist’s chair. One type of technology, which was developed by a dental practitioner, is known as OperaVR and has proven to be successful in dozens of dental offices across the country.
Patients wear the VR headset while dentists and hygienists perform procedures. Patients have the option of viewing three-dimensional videos of animals, nature scenes or jugglers. The videos last from one to 20 minutes. The software is operated by the dentist who controls the audio and video. Practitioners report that technology is also as effective as general anesthesia for relieving pain. Some of the software additionally monitors a patient’s vital signs to enable physicians to gauge relaxation levels.
Virtual reality has been used throughout Asia and Europe for a while to teach dental students. In 2014, the School of Dental Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania became the first institution in the United States to implement the technology into their curriculum. Students are able to take part in case studies that simulate actual patients complete with a treatment plan. Using VR, the students learn and enact a large variety of dental procedures. As the software remains available, students have the opportunity to use VR as often as needed to learn the skills required as a practitioner before ever treating a living patient.
Dentists alleviate the fear of the unknown for patients by providing them with the opportunity of learning about dental anatomy, health and pathological events via virtual reality. Patients may also be able to watch procedures before undergoing treatment. Tutorials might be made available on portable tablets or computer screens. The GMR Marketing company in Wisconsin is developing a program that takes patients into a virtual museum in order to learn about the heart and various cardiovascular conditions.