Dental Care: Anesthesia Through Virtual Reality

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We will be able to use virtual reality headsets as anesthetic at the dentist.

Because local anesthetic is all well and good, but it doesn’t make you any less nervous or apprehensive. Especially when the dentist comes in with his instruments of torture.

So, the idea is to distract the patient and make sure they are relaxed, by getting them to wear a mask with a screen that projects them into a virtual world.

This is what scientists from the University of Plymouth did in the UK. They tried out several types of images and videos while someone was having a tooth extracted or a cavity filled. And it was coastal landscapes that proved to be the most effective.

The most effective: does that mean you don’t feel any pain?

Yes! Obviously, the dentist mustn’t touch a nerve by accident.

But provided everything goes well, patients who watched images of the seashore say they felt no pain at all. Whereas those who were shown city or countryside images, or none at all, didn’t come away with such good memories.

But when the dentist says “Open wide”, surely that counteracts the effect?

That’s why they want to go even further next time and find images that will cause you to keep your mouth open.

When you’re asleep, sometimes you’re so far gone that your jaw slides open and you end up drooling. That’s the effect they’re trying to reproduce with a virtual reality headset.

It would be like general anesthetic, but you’d be sleeping awake, hypnotized. So, you’d feel injections, blood tests, or the dentist’s drill even less.

Broadcast on Tuesday, June 20, 2017 on Europe 1, Anicet Mbida’s Report

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