Virtual Reality (VR) is increasingly used to manage pain and anxiety in dentistry but there is limited research on its feasibility for use with stroke patients. This specialized technology may be particularly helpful for this population as increased anxiety is a common psychological outcome and stroke patients are often unable to receive standard anesthetics during dental procedures.
A case series report was conducted at a specialized dental clinic in Toronto, Canada. Patients selected from 360° VR videos (themes: music, sports, nature, or travel) to watch reclined in a dental chair during their procedure. Patient reactions to VR during the procedures were recorded using a standard observation tool; post-procedure, patients completed a questionnaire about pain and anxiety in dentistry (adapted from Hoffman et al., 2001) and provided feedback through a semi-structured interview. The dentist also completed a semi-structured interview and the System Usability Scale (SUS).
Overall, VR was well tolerated, did not cause adverse events, and had a positive impact on anxiety/pain for the two patients. The dentist was satisfied with the intervention and intended to continue its use with other stroke patients, including testing VR with different populations, such as those with Dementia and Acquired Brain Injury. To our knowledge this case series is the first to explore the use of VR with stroke patients undergoing dental treatments. Given the promising feedback, future research should evaluate the effectiveness of VR on minimizing pain and anxiety with a larger sample of participants.