The University of Western Australia's School of Dentistry is the first in Australia to introduce cutting-edge technology into dental training with a machine that creates a realistic sense of touch in a virtual environment to simulate dental procedures.
UWA's "Moog Simodont Dental Trainers", funded by Health Workforce Australia, have been hailed by the Head of the School, Winthrop Professor Andrew Smith, as one of the biggest changes to the teaching of dental instrumentation skills ever.
"Students find manual dexterity skills the most challenging," he said. "This (Simodont Dental Trainer) is a way for students to do tasks repetitively, without wasting materials. There are also no occupational health and safety risks because there is no drill and therefore no sharps. And they can practice without having to have direct one-to-one tutor supervision."
The School of Dentistry has 14 systems installed and commissioned ready for the start of the new four-year Doctor of Dental Medicine degree in 2013.
About 1,150 dental students will benefit from the simulators over the next 10-years. They will learn to drill and manoeuvre instruments, including a dental mirror, and can practice treating virtual pathological dental conditions and complex cases without potential harm to patients.
The dental trainer includes simulated dental burrs for the removal of tooth decay and simulated hand instruments to fill cavities and perform crown and bridge procedures.
Pilots, car manufacturers and musicians have all benefited from haptics technology. Using high fidelity force feedback, haptics has been used to incorporate the mechanical feeling of an acoustic piano into electronic keyboards and to simulate car parts for the automotive industry and aeroplanes for the training of commercial and fighter pilots.
Dutch studies suggest students exposed to training on the simulator achieve competency more quickly than those not exposed.
The dental trainer could also be used to teach advanced techniques, including in endodontics, orthodontics and oral surgery.