Virtual Reality Nature Helps Dental Patients


If nature helps with hospital visits and healing, why not dentistry? A recent experiment provides more evidence that nature can help us calm our nerves and relax into a less anxious state of being – even in the dental industry. How did they find out this time? Virtual reality (VR).

Everyone dreads the dentist – mostly because of the hassle, the cost, and of course, the disconcerting and vulnerable process of having work done in your own mouth.  Some people have such high anxiety about being at the dentist that they will skip appointments, putting their own health at risk.

Well, there may be a new option for these folks: virtual nature.


In a new study, dental patients wore virtual reality glasses that allowed them to wander around in a beach environment. The control group didn’t receive any virtual reality of course. 

However, if the beach images did help patients, how would we know it was because of showing them nature and not just the distraction of virtual reality glasses? Well, yet another group wore the same glasses, but were shown an urban environment instead.  


The takeaway? Those who trekked the beach had a lower experience of pain, lower blood pressure, and lower heart rates. And not just over those without VR, but those stuck in the urban scenery too. Both the non-nature groups experienced about the same thing – no significant benefit. You gotta feel sorry for these control group patients - I hope someone thanked them for their contribution to science!

I know some dentists here in Portland installed TVs in their ceilings. Patients hold the remote control so they can choose what station to watch (after this study, you might want to avoid “Cops” and head to the nature channel!). But you can still see the dentist and the instruments. VR glasses are no doubt a more immersive experience.

Here’s a video of what the beach patients saw:


Virtual reality can certainly have a place in lowering dental anxiety. However, for many other health-related operations, virtual reality is not available or practical. That’s where nature photography can come in.

Consider putting up some of my images of beautiful nature scenes on the wall, ceiling, waiting room, hallways, or wherever your patients spend time.

Want to see some examples in person? Come see my work in the Community Gallery at Providence Medical Center!  Many of the pieces from my Art For Healthcare collection will be on display through the end of August.