Virtual reality in dentistry aims to melt the anxiety away

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) — Everyone might not enjoy going to the dentist office, but what if there was a way to feel like you weren’t even there?

It’s not just the fear, but a recent study found dentists are the leading prescribers of opioids for U.S. teens.  One dentist has found a way to reduce prescribing opioids by using virtual reality as a drug-free sedation tool.

Whether on a beach or watching wildlife, transporting your mind into a different reality can be powerful.

“It is a game changer. Virtual Reality has been proven to reduce anxiety and depression by 24% sometimes 50-60 percent,” said Dr. Bryan Laskin, DDS.

Dentist Bryan Laskin from Minneapolis is the creator of OperaVR, virtual reality goggles designed for the dental setting.

He’s hoping to bring this tool to the Salt Lake Valley.

“It still blows my mind. It’s hard to imagine when you put on a headset you are going to have the same effectiveness as a drug used for a century.”

Dr. Laskin calls it digital nitrous. He says when getting a crown you would use both VR and anesthesia. 
Instead of waiting 5 minutes for the drug to set in, VR takes seconds.  

“The number 1 reason for dental anxiety is the needle. By blocking and putting you somewhere else, There’s no reason you should feel pain,” said Laskin. 

The drug-free sedation tool also helps dentists do their job better.

“When someone is moving around it’s hard to do our job,” said Laskin. “If you deal with the anxiety you’re dealing with the pain.”

Erasing anxiety by tricking the brain.

“You can’t be relaxed and anxious at the same time so if you are sitting on the beach in your mind you’re not sitting in the dentist chair,” said Laskin. 

Dr. Laskin says the VR effects can last a day and a half which means prescribing fewer opioids.

“We as dentists on the frontline of the opioid epidemic have to come up with alternatives and that’s what we are trying to do.” 

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