back to article Fear the dentist? Strap on some nerd goggles

Wearing a virtual-reality headset in the dentist's chair could make you more relaxed, a new study suggests. "We know lots of people are scared of dentists," says Sabine Pahl, a psychologist at England's Plymouth University, who worked on the project. Previous research has shown that virtual reality can make kids calmer when …

  1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    The march of technology

    I suppose it's a step up from the mobile hanging from the ceiling at my dentist many years back - and soothing pictures on the walls.

    Neither were much help when he accidentally drilled into a nerve. His response "Don't worry, pain is good for the soul" was even less help.

  2. Little Mouse

    Re: The march of technology

    A step up maybe, but only just. It can hardly count as "VR" if the patient is unable to turn his/her head, and there's no audio. Plus, they're lying down but seeing an environment as if they're standing. Bleugh!

    They might as well just have a TV attached to the ceiling. At least they could turn the sound on.

    Personally I just shut my eyes and try to concentrate on not involuntarily tearing the seat-arms off the chair.

  3. Steve the Cynic Silver badge

    Re: The march of technology

    Reminds me of a dentist I saw in London around 10 years ago. He had a set of goggles with (opaque-backed) mini screens in, and the patient would get to wear them with Sky News piped in. The corresponding audio was "ambient" in the office. It passed the time better than nothing at all, but I would have preferred something other than Sky News.

  4. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge

    Re: The march of technology

    Best dentist I had pulled my top wisdom teeth (the bottom were pulled by an Army dentist, who was the worst). He asked me what music I wanted to listen two while he worked. I gave him a blank look and he explained that he had his patients wear headphones while he worked because it helped them to relax. I told him whatever he thought was best. The next thing I knew, I was listening to Jimmy Buffett and enjoying lots of nitrous. I was very, very relaxed.

    Perhaps the use of VR is not as helpful. As Little Mouse mentioned, you don't really get much use out of a system that requires active participation if you are in this situation. Being able to just sit back and zone out is likely to be better. Also, a lack of audio is crap. If you can hear everything that is going on, you are going to tense up even if you are in no pain. Headphones, loud music and dark sunglasses for the win!

  5. Robert Moore

    Re: The march of technology

    Personally I just shut my eyes and try to concentrate on not involuntarily tearing the seat-arms off the chair.

    I actually did rip the arm off the dentists chair once. After that he finally believed me that the local anaesthetic wasn't working.

    To the dentists credit, he did not charge me for having the chair repaired.

  6. Korev Silver badge

    More detail required?

    We need to drill into this further

  7. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

    Re: More detail required?

    A most witty response - possibly your crowning achievement

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: More detail required?

    I agree, we need to get to the root of the details. There may be a few bridges that need crossing.

  9. User McUser

    Re: More detail required?

    It's a very broad topic, quite long in the tooth!

    Why even with years of study one could hardly put a dentin it.

  10. Rich 11 Silver badge

    Lacking a certain something

    If they come up with a version where you can stroll around with a shotgun and yell, "Git orff moi laand!" before opening fire on dogwalkers and hikers, I'm in.

  11. m0rt Silver badge

    I am convinced this has been done before....

    ...and a rather orwellian company's search engine to the rescue:

    Actually looking at the side notes - vr as a method to control pain in burn victims goes way back to the ancient times of 2000.

  12. AMBxx Silver badge

    accounting for differences in age, gender, dental anxiety and the treatment type or duration

    They only had 79 patients. How are they ever going to allow for so many variables and have something statistically significant?

    Sounds more like 'we wanted a positive result, so jiggered about with the data'

  13. Triggerfish

    Re: accounting for differences in age, gender, dental anxiety and the treatment type or duration

    Agreed. I am working at getting past my fear but when I was suffering from it badly, it was basically narrowed vision that focused on you escape routes, and a weird part of your mind in the background working out the best way to take out the dentist and nurse if they tried to stop you, going through escape option 1 the door, rational was not a part of this, pure survival reflex thinking at that level. I'm pretty sure someone trying to put glasses on me so I couldn't see what was actually going to happen, would not have elicited a calm response. Realise they had some reactions like that in the trial but yeah think they could do with a bigger sample size.

  14. Dr. Ellen

    There is one slight problem...

    For many years, my dentist has offered headphones, to play music of my choice. And then, at least once a minute, "Turn your head to the left." "Open a bit wider." "Are you doing okay?"

    What good is something carrying your mind off to a soothing place, when you get dragged back to reality dozens of times during the process? I've given up on the headphones.

  15. Rafael #872397

    @Dr. Ellen

    Anything my dentist asks is answered with "aghhshsmnghhfh" and sometimes a string of droll. This helps me to keep focused in the sheer panic I feel whenever I had to go to the dentist, even to do payments (as equally painful as the procedures).

    Where is my painless laser drill I was promised on the 70s? And my flying car? Can I at least get a "where is my X" icon?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm not sure they've thought this through, don't you turn your head to look around in VR?

    That won't end well.

  17. DougS Silver badge

    Why show a VR scene?

    Why not just show a movie or TV show, or at least a real nature scene instead of crappy pixellated landscape?

  18. cosymart

    Optimal Experience

    I have never feared going to the dentist as I was conditioned to enjoy the whole experience from an early age.

    As a young lad of impressionable age I would go to the local school dental clinic. Once sat in the chair if anything was about to happen the female dental assistant would cradle my head in her ample bosom, bliss never felt or heard a thing. :-)

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: I have never feared going to the dentist

    Get out, Arthur Denton.

  20. Kernel Silver badge

    No fear of the dentist here ......

    The very worst they can do is say that serious work is required and can I come back and collect my teeth in a couple of days.

    There is, however, a degree of enjoyment to be had from watching other people in the waiting room displaying various degrees of nervousness - yes, I am aware that this is not a very empathetic trait in me, but I can live with that knowledge.

  21. Stevie Silver badge


    OR, you know, anesthetics.

  22. Shadow Systems Silver badge

    Re: Bah!

    I have to go to the dentist soon to have my wisdom teeth removed.

    The dentist asked me if I wanted merely a local or to be placed under for the procedure.

    I replied that it was in his own best interest to "put me as far under as possible without actually killing me".

    When he asked why I told him "Because if I even *THINK* I feel any pain I'll whip out a hand, grab you by the balls, & tear them off in an act of self defense".

    He laughed thinking I was joking, but it choked off in his throat when I told him I was *not* kidding.

    This VR crap wouldn't do a damned thing for me even if I weren't totally blind, it's not the visuals ("Oh look! My face is on fire & there's smoke coming out of my mouth!") or the noise ("Was that the turbine whine of a jet engine winding up? WTF are you gonna do?!?"), but the fact that *IT FUCKING HURTS* to have some sadistic bastard DRILLING in your jaw.

    I can't open up & say ah any more than I am already, & you threatening to break my jaw so you can seemingly climb inside & use a JackHammer isn't going to make matters any better.

    You scare the shit out of me, I know you will cause me pain, so either put me completely under so I never feel any of it, or don't be surprised when I rip your nuts off as a way to say "ow".


    Damned dentists, sadistic bastards the whole lot o' 'em!

  23. Triggerfish

    Re: Bah!

    OR, you know, anesthetics.

    I had emergency root canal work done without any really, due to having been anesthetised earlier. In fact the last thing I really remember is the dentist saying we are going to have to drill the nerve out and we can't give you any more anesthetic. Can't remember anymore than that but I can tell you fight or flight kicks in before the dentist even gets near me with a needle now, sitting in the chair and having someone in a white coat approach me is enough.

  24. Stevie Silver badge

    Re: Bah!

    Good for you Shadow Systems.

    I had to have a problem tooth excavated by a specialist. "it's got to come out and we can't do the job" said Doc Tugmolar.

    Endodontist's PA asks me if Inwant a general anesthetic. "Will my insurace cover it?" I ask dubiously (US dental insurance even being what it is I was not sanguine).

    "Oh yes! There's a copay of sixty dollars for the entire procedure that covers everything."

    "Then of course I want a general. Who on Earth would want to be awake for this sort of thing?"

    It was great. Sit down, wake up, go home.

  25. Mark York 3

    Death of Popular Local Dentist*

    I have little fear of dentists after encountering good ones recommended to me first by a friend & then the wife, following experiences with the dentist(s) I had as a kid & generally find it a relaxing experience.

    Since moving to Canada things have really got that much better with the care, including a balloon rubber type of screen that sits behind your teeth & stops flakes of hot tooth dust falling down your throat while the drilling takes place.

    *Popular (As reported in the local paper) in the respect he wasn't the dentist in Marathon Man.

    Troll icon has what appears to be a full set of teeth.

  26. PerspexAvenger

    Mine has gone the "cheap distraction" approach.

    He's got a "Where's Wally" poster stuck to the ceiling. Works quite well, personally.

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