A lot of people are not looking forward to it. The annual visit to the dentist. But what if the treatment flies by because it feels like you're in an underwater world with the help of VR goggles and a game and all your attention goes to keeping a submarine afloat? Rafa Bidarra developed "Gaming at the dentist," a unique game to play on the dentist's chair.


How did the idea for gaming at the dentist arise?

"A colleague from TU Delft, Rob Kooij, told me that he once lay in the dentist's chair and looked at a 'Where's Wally' poster on the ceiling. A nice way to distract him from the treatment. This story gave rise to the idea of making something interactive aimed at dental patients. We started working with students of the course 'Building Serious Games' and we involved dentists and a game designer in the team. You can imagine that the game had to be simple and calm because the patient must relax and not make any unexpected movements during a treatment. That's how we thought of an underwater world: you are in a submarine that moves through a kind of tunnel to get out. Along the way, you collect air bubbles and dodge rocks. If you don't do anything, you'll sink to the bottom. The game encourages to take action in a pleasant way."


What successes have been achieved so far?

“We published our paper paper Gaming at the dentist’s – serious game design for pain and discomfort distraction in 2013 and it is still regularly cited. The topic of reducing pain with a digital form of interactive distraction was still practically untried, so our paper really brought something new. We have presented our game on various forums. There has also been a lot of interest from the media; For example, NOS op 3 made an item. We get a lot of positive reactions from patients and dentists. So we think that gaming really offers a solution, especially for the more than 800,000 people who have a phobia of the dentist or for children who are difficult to keep calm.”

What challenges did you face?

"There are still some practical challenges. There is little time between dental visits to get the game ready and to observe all hygiene requirements. Moreover, it is important that the patients really don’t make any movements when playing the game, it is designed with that important criteria in mind. We need to find the funding to take next steps and that is the main challenge at the moment. That’s why we are looking for a suitable partner with knowledge of entrepreneurship."


What does the future look like?

"In the meantime, we started to develop the game to make it adaptive. This allows us to adjust the difficulty of the game to the level of the patient and also adjust the duration to the duration of the treatment.

I see that so much is about to happen in terms of technological development in this area. You can already use your mobile as a screen. This saves on logistics for the dentists because then you partly use your own materials.

In short, in the future, a screen with the top scores of the patients will be visible in the waiting area at the dentist. You will be stimulated to improve your last score, using your own mobile phone as a screen while you are comfortably lying in the chair and the dentist performs the treatment.”


Why is it good that this innovation is now ‘traveling the entire world'?

"Everyone intuitively realises the value of this innovation. The game is designed with the intention of providing a solution to an everyday problem. 'Gaming at the dentist' can make a healthy life easier and more fun!"