Ever heard of 'digital nitrous oxide ?' - the future of dental patient management

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Ever heard of 'digital nitrous oxide ?' - the future of dental patient management


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The new technology is all set to overcome the shortcomings of nitrous oxide

Wed. 24 August 2022


A newer, faster, easier, safer option is all set to replace Nitrous oxide in pain & anxiety management in the dental setting.

Nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, is a mild sedative agent commonly used in a dental setting to manage pain and anxiety effectively. It works to relax patients before dental treatment.

However, there are a few drawbacks. Patients on nitrous oxide require constant monitoring that divides the dentist’s attention. Also, it needs specialized equipment requiring maintenance and the expenses of gases. Studies have shown a chronic exposure can result in a health risk to dental staff.

If you want to overcome these challenges and go for a faster, easier, safer option that provides a calming effect similar to nitrous oxide, then your best choice would be “Virtual Reality (VR).”

Virtual Reality (VR) uses computer technology to create a simulated experience that can be similar to or completely different from the real world. Virtual Reality’s most immediately-recognizable component is the head-mounted display (HMD).

In recent years VR has been gaining awareness and popularity due to the gaming industry. However, even the healthcare industry has leveraged its immersive and entertaining nature to increase patients’ overall experience.

Many studies have examined using VR as a distraction and how it effectively reduces discomfort and pain with mild to moderate fear and anxiety. A study of VR on pain perception and anxiety levels in children during pulp therapy of primary molar was conducted on 40 children. The results showed that VR significantly reduced pain perception and anxiety scores.

Another study showed that patients immersed in VR showed a 70% reduction in pain with no medication compared to a 30% reduction in pain with a standard morphine prescription. This way, VR has also proven to decrease opioid abuse by patients.

“When I slipped on the headset, I nearly completely forgot that I was at the dentist, which changed the entire experience. I almost wanted to stay longer in the chair after the procedure to have some extra ‘me’ time” this is stated by a patient who used VR technology during his dental appointment.

75% of patients experience dental fear, and 15% are so anxious that they avoid dental care altogether. Emotional stress can make dental visits or even making an appointment needlessly uncomfortable. Together with the use of VR, we can get these numbers down. Patients can now enjoy a mini vacation during their dental visit with the introduction of guided VR dental practices.

New OperaVR virtual reality headsets allow dentists to relieve anxiety, reduce pain, and attract new patients. A dentist -Dr. Bryan Laskin, DDS, created OperaVR after studying how VR can reduce pain and anxiety effectively. The easy 30-second setup offers great value to the treatment and improves the overall outcome.

After learning about OperaVR, Dr. Mark Whitlock, DDS - a  dentist in Cordova, Tennesse, tried it on 60 of his most anxious patients. From this trial, Dr. Whitlock reported that OperaVR was a game changer for driving faster, easier appointments and much greater patient retention.

Dentists in the future may need little or no nitrous oxide to relax their patients as VR in dentistry may reduce & replace the usage of Nitrous Oxide.

Virtual reality is a promising technique that, until now, has not been utilized to its full potential in dentistry. The VR field continues to grow and has innumerable applications in patient preparation, distraction, information, and dental education.


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