Virtual Reality Relaxation to Decrease Preoperative Dental Anxiety: An RCT
Objectives: to study if short-term virtual reality relaxation reduced dental anxiety in public health setting.
Methods: This randomized controlled single-center trial was conducted in the public Oral Health Care Unit of Kalasatama, Helsinki, Finland with two parallel arms: Virtual Reality Relaxation (VRR) and Treatment As Usual (TAU) groups (allocation ratio 1:1). Adult patients who were attending a dental appointment, consented, and completed the questionnaire without assistance, were eligible participants. Power calculation determined the sample size to 270 participants. Recruitment stopped at 277 patients. Interventions were conducted in similar settings in small alcoves with a seat and a table. VRR group participants chose one 1-3 minute 360° video immersing them in peaceful virtual landscape with audio features supporting the relaxing experience. TAU group participants remained seated for 3 minutes. Dental anxiety was assessed with Modified Dental Anxiety Scale (MDAS) before and after the intervention. Mean changes in MDAS total and factor scores (anticipatory and treatment related) between the groups and stratified by gender were analyzed using independent samples t-tests. City of Helsinki provided ethical clearance (HEL 2018-008940).
Results: MDAS total and anticipatory factor scores decreased more in the VRR than the TAU group; among females, also in treatment related dental anxiety. Among men difference was observed only in the anticipatory dental anxiety. (*p-values for t-tests)
Conclusions: Short term VRR is feasible in reducing preoperative dental anxiety in public health setting.