Local dentist uses virtual reality to calm patients’ anxiety

Local Health Alert

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – What if going for a routine dental checkup meant a visit to the beach? 

It’s exactly what Dr. Mark Whitlock is doing for his patients. 

Dr. Whitlock said, “It puts you in a space where you are not in a dental chair.”

He’s talking about virtual reality. He uses VR goggles on his patients, something he calls “digital nitrous.” 

He said, “The dental chair is one of the most uncomfortable places to be as a patient because they’re so close to you.”

Because of the discomfort of some of the procedures and exams, he often uses nitrous oxide, which is also known as laughing gas, and other drugs to calm his patients – until now.

He said, “From teeth cleaning, to root canal, to implant procedures,” he uses VR to allow patients for all types of visits to escape from the dentist’s chair. 

“All of the sights and scenes you see are all stationary, and you don’t see the things you don’t want to see in a dental office,” Whitlock said. 

We at Local 24 News wanted to see if the VR experience really made the difference, so Good Day Memphis anchor Kelsie Cairns went in for a cleaning a-la digital nitrous. 

She said, “Once Dr. whitlock gave me my goggles, it was a world tour in just under 30 minutes. It went by much faster than I thought it would. It was really relaxing.”

Whitlock said, “We have patients that come in now that, if we don’t have the VR ready and charged, then they’re going to have to reschedule.”

He says when he first got the VR system, he tested it out on 60 of his patients. Here’s what he found: “More than half of them after a few minutes of watching, either fell asleep or didn’t even realize that I was working on them,” he said. 

Learn more HERE.

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