Virtual reality exposure therapy for the treatment of dental phobia: A controlled feasibility study

Kumar Raghav Gujjar, Arjen Van Wijk, Ratika Sharma, Ad De Jongh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) has been used to treat a variety of fears and phobias.
Aim: To determine the feasibility (i.e. safety and efficacy) of using VRET to treat dental phobia.
Method: Safety was evaluated by determining any adverse events or symptom exacerbation. Efficacy of VRET was evaluated by comparing the reduction in dental anxiety scores (measured 16 times within a 14-week study period, and at 6-month follow-up), and its behavioural effects with that of an informational pamphlet (IP) on ten randomized patients with dental phobia using a controlled multiple baseline design. Participants' heart rate response during VRET, and their experience post-VRET, were indexed.
Results: No personal adverse events or symptom exacerbation occurred. Visual analysis and post-hoc intention-to-treat analysis showed a significantly greater decrease in dental anxiety scores [higher PND (percentage of non-overlap data) scores of 100% and lower POD (percentage of overlap data) of 0%, Modified Dental Anxiety Scale, F (1,8) = 8.61, p = 0.019, and Dental Fear Scale, F (1,8) = 10.53, p = 0.012], and behavioural avoidance in the VRET compared with the IP group [d = 4.2 and -1.4, respectively). There was no increase in average heart rate during VRET. Of the nine treatment completers, six (four from the VRET group and two from the IP group) no longer had dental phobia at 6-month follow-up. Four of the five VRET participants, but none of the IP participants, scheduled a dental treatment appointment following the intervention.
Conclusion: VRET is a feasible alternative for patients with dental phobia.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)367-373
Number of pages7
JournalBehavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 01 May 2018


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