March 27, 2008 Evidence of dentistry has been found dating back as far as 5500 BC however common knowledge tends to only go back as far as the Middle Ages when dental procedures were performed by barbers or general practitioners (with the aid of pliers and a bottle of whisky). These days patient care is of the utmost importance, which is why dentistry researchers at the University of Illinois (UIC) are developing a haptic training simulator called PerioSim, which uses 3-D virtual reality technology to allow dental students to improve their skills before being allowed near real live patients.

The PerioSim haptic virtual training system allows the user to "feel" the 3-D human mouth shown in real-time on a computer screen while manipulating actual dental tools in their hands. The simulator has the advantage of being accessible via the Internet. Different procedures to practice and instruments to use can be chosen by the user with model position, viewpoint and transparency level also adjustable.

Teaching staff are able to create patient scenarios of periodontal procedures, which can be saved and replayed at any time. The 3-D component means students can replay the scenario from any angle and observe different views of the placement of the instrument. The system also offers a way for professionals and students to refine their skills even after having experience with patients.

Over the past several years, dentistry has begun using simulators to train students, but the programs traditionally use tracker technology, not haptics, said Dr. Arnold Steinberg, professor of periodontics at UIC and project leader.

"We can enhance the learning and training of a wide variety of tasks or procedures using this system," said Dr. Steinberg. "The need to practice on mannequins, animals and patients can be significantly reduced, and in some cases, eliminated entirely."

The haptic system also benefits from lower investment, maintenance, and replacement costs compared with earlier generation mannequin-based simulators.

Results of a validation study, finding PerioSim “very useful”, were recently published in the Journal of Dental Education.

Via UIC.

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