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CAD/CAM - international magazine of digital dentistry

I new technology _ VR in dentistry _Virtualreality(VR)simulationinevitablycon- jures up images of futuristic technology, imaginary worlds or complex robotic devices. What it may not initially suggest is the use of virtual technology as a means of training dental students and dentists, facilitating the development of skills in a safe and relaxed environment. An increase in demand for simulation units over thelasttento10yearshasindicatedgrowinginter- est from dental schools, suggesting a certain confi- dence that simulation systems have potential as a recognisedformofdentalskillstraininginthefuture. Using technology inspired primarily from the flight simulation industry, dental simulators are now able tocreateanenvironmentinwhichuserscanpractise clinical procedures, such as restorative dentistry, endodontics, periodontal assessment, implant place- ment and even dental extractions. These systems are a far cry from the first phan- tomheadsimulatorcreatedintheearly1900sthat attempted to represent the oral cavity with a rela- tively primitive set of upper and lower dental casts mounted on a metal pole (Fig. 1). Although phan- tom head systems are now the mainstay for un- dergraduate training, educationalists are becom- ing more aware of the additional benefits of VR simulation, such as the ability to repeat the same taskmanytimes,providingreal-timefeedbacklead- ing to a reduction in supervision, and the benefits of students being able to practise in their free time withoutlaboratorysupervisors.OtherbenefitsofVR simulators include the reduction of consumable costs incurred with plastic teeth and the elimina- tionofwatersystemmanagementissues,reducing the possibility of water-borne infections such as Legionella. Undoubtedly,theinitialcostoftheVRsimulators is a major deterrent and, with additional concerns regarding possible lack of realism to the clinical sit- uation, it is natural that many suggest the need for more evidence-based research prior to committing to such an investment. In the limited literature on VR dental simulation, studieshavebeenmixedbut,ingeneral,arepositive about the use of the technology for dental training. ResearchhasshownthatprocedurallearningonVR simulatorsmaybemoreeffectivethanwiththetra- ditionalphantomheadandmayreducethenumber of staff—student interactions without a reduction in the quality of the practical work. In contrast, other research has shown that den- tal performance may be no better using VR simula- tion and that some students prefer their training to be on phantom heads. Naturally, further research will be needed to establish the effectiveness of the technology. Fig. 1_A sketch of an early phantom head simulator. Fig. 2_ The Simodont Dental Trainer (Moog) haptic VR simulator. Virtual reality simulation Indications and perspectives for the technology in the field of dental education Authors_ Dr Susan Bridges, Suzanne Perry & Prof. Michael Burrow, Hong Kong & Australia 06 I CAD/CAM 2_2015 3D Glasses Display screen Foot pedal Viewing screen Dental handpiece input device Fig. 1 Fig. 2

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