Virtual reality relaxation to decrease dental anxiety: immediate effect randomized clinical trial

S Lahti, A Suominen, R Freeman, T Lähteenoja, G. Humphris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
8 Downloads (Pure)



Dental anxiety is common and causes symptomatic use of oral health services.


The aim was to study if a short-term virtual reality intervention reduced preoperative dental anxiety.


A randomized controlled single-center trial was conducted with 2 parallel arms in a public oral health care unit: virtual reality relaxation (VRR) and treatment as usual (TAU). The VRR group received a 1- to 3.5-min 360° immersion video of a peaceful virtual landscape with audio features and sound supporting the experience. TAU groups remained seated for 3 min. Of the powered sample of 280 participants, 255 consented and had complete data. Total and secondary sex-specific mixed effects linear regression models were completed for posttest dental anxiety (Modified Dental Anxiety Scale [MDAS] total score) and its 2 factors (anticipatory and treatment-related dental anxiety) adjusted for baseline (pretest) MDAS total and factor scores and age, taking into account the effect of blocking.


Total and anticipatory dental anxiety decreased more in the VRR group than the TAU group (β = −0.75, P < .001, for MDAS total score; β = −0.43, P < .001, for anticipatory anxiety score) in patients of a primary dental care clinic. In women, dental anxiety decreased more in VRR than TAU for total MDAS score (β = −1.08, P < .001) and treatment-related dental anxiety (β = −0.597, P = .011). Anticipatory dental anxiety decreased more in VRR than TAU in both men (β = −0.217, P < .026) and women (β = −0.498, P < .001).


Short application of VRR is both feasible and effective to reduce preoperative dental anxiety in public dental care settings ( NCT03993080).

Knowledge Transfer Statement:

Dental anxiety, which is a common problem, can be reduced with short application of virtual reality relaxation applied preoperatively in the waiting room. Findings of this study indicate that it is a feasible and effective procedure to help patients with dental anxiety in normal public dental care settings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)312-318
Number of pages7
JournalJDR Clinical & Translational Research
Issue number4
Early online date21 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020


  • Dental fear
  • Clinical studies/trials
  • Relaxation technics
  • Virtual reality immersion
  • Dental care
  • Public sector


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