If the idea of a relaxing trip to the dentist seems absurd, you’ll be happy to know that over the last few years there has been a major focus on the patient experience by dental practices all over the nation.
From virtual reality to an office that feels like anything but a dental practice to sedation dentistry and even a new system that completely takes over your senses, allowing you to relax - there’s so much going on in the world of relaxation dentistry today. If you are anxious about going to the dentist, find a dental practice that uses some of these new ways to help patients relax and sometimes even sleep through their treatments.
Virtual Reality at the Dentist
A study published in the journal Environment & Behavior showed that using virtual reality in a dental setting could help with patient anxiety. In the study, patients were randomly assigned to a virtual walk around the beach, a virtual walk around a city or a control group that did not use virtual reality during their treatment. At the end of the study, researchers found that the patients who took a virtual walk on the beach during their procedure were less anxious, reported less pain and even a week later had more positive memories of their appointment than the other groups.
One interesting finding to note was that those who took a virtual walk around the city did not see the same benefits as those who walked the beach. It seems virtual reality alone is not enough to reduce stress and anxiety at the dentist, but combining it with a location that is symbolic for relaxation could be the key.
Sedation Dentistry for the Most Anxious
Sedation dentistry was developed to meet the needs of patients who are mildly anxious to full-blown phobic when it comes to dental care. Most dental practices that offer sedation dentistry have options that range from a simple oral medication that helps the patient relax all the way to complete general anesthesia that lets a patient sleep through an extended procedure to take care of all the dental work they’ve neglected from years of living in fear.
"The bottom line is that no one should go without the care they need," said Dr. Amy Norman, DDS, a dentist who takes dental anxiety very seriously.
A Dental PracticeThat Feels Like Home
For patients who just dislike the feeling they get when they walk into a dental office, some practices are taking big strides at removing the triggers that induce anxiety for many patients.
At Norman’s practice in Everett, Washington, they are pulling out all the stops.
"Each room is individually temperature controlled so when our patients arrive we can have the room set to their ideal temperature," she said. "We also have music playlists customized for each patient ready to go when they arrive."
If that’s not enough to make you feel at home, every morning the office staff bakes fresh bread so the office always smells like anything but a dental practice.
"We don’t wear white coats, either," she said. "We feel like that screams dentistry in a way that just isn’t necessary. We want our patients to feel at home with the sounds, smells and sights that make them feel most comfortable."
The NuCalm System
One of the newest developments in the relaxation dentistry movement is the NuCalm system. According to its website, it’s the only patented system designed to balance and maintain the health of the autonomic nervous system. NuCalm claims to induce the pre-sleep state that allows for deep relaxation through a combination of a topical cream, micro current patches behind the ears, neuroacoustic software delivered through headphones and a light-blocking eye mask. In fact, the NuCalm effect is supposedly even more effective the more stressed and anxious you are.