We have more than 35 years of educational experience and more than 50 years of clinical experience in the dental profession. As professors in a renowned dental school, we represented the final hurdle senior dental students had to overcome before graduating from dental school.
Over the years, it became increasingly worrisome when students arrived at the senior clinic without the necessary hand skills to treat the patients assigned to them competently. Together, we spent years investigating and researching ways as early and as much as possible to identify and improve the psycho-motor ability of dental students.
The question that was faced regularly was not if a novice would be expected to have the hand skills equivalent to those of a practicing dentist but rather if the individual could have the ability to learn those skills in a reasonable amount of time.
USING A VIRTUAL AI TRAINER
After years of searching, we finally came upon the Simodont Dental Trainer, a virtual-haptic simulator specifically created to help develop hand skills in dental and dental hygiene students and aid in the development of the clinical skills necessary to become a dentist or hygienist.
The Simodont Dental Trainer provides users with the most advanced dental simulation solution in the world. Students are able to discover and learn through a highly realistic virtual reality training environment with detailed 3D visuals and a crisp, haptic feel. Students are also able to track their progress, be mentored by teachers based on their results, and get a more realistic sense of the work involved in working in the dental industry.
With the Simodont Dental Trainer in hand, we officially established Promethean Dental Systems in late 2020 to provide simulated education by combining virtual reality and haptics with comparison digital technology and digital workflow. We simulate to build skills, boost procedure repetitions, and teach end to workflow. This achieves our goal of creating a lifelike, accurate, and objective way to simulate and assess dentistry for aspiring dental and dental hygiene students, current dental and dental hygiene students, and practicing dentists.
We founded Promethean Dental Systems with Donna Armstrong and Mike Hill. We have transitioned our ideas into a company that is constantly exploring all possibilities to evolve dental education. We teach multimodal skill building, repetition boosting and integrated simulations to students and professionals using our 5-stage approach called PDS Evolve. All of our courses are objectively assessed and promote faster, more profound dental knowledge.
INTEGRATING SIMULATION INTO DENTAL SCHOOLS
In the Summer of 2019, we began administering hand-skills training and assessment courses for pre-dental students. These courses included 6 hours of training plus an assessment of hand skills. Through these assessments, students can screen themselves and decide if a dental career is right for them.
By analyzing the data from the hand-skills courses and assessments, it was determined that:
- Approximately 50% of these students demonstrated comparative ability with only 3 hours of training.
- Approximately 90% of students demonstrated similar ability with 6 hours of training.
- Approximately 10% of students required additional training to reach a similar goal.
- Approximately 2% did not reach comparable levels of competence with more than 10 hours of practice.
Remediation of failing or nearly failing students can cost time and effort over the course of the 4 years of dental school training, not to mention the mental stress on top of an already full load of other topics of study. When we don’t actively assess hand skills and train for them, students and dental schools face the real possibility of having a student eventually fail the necessary competencies, forcing the student to be unable to continue with his or her studies. Or worse, the student is passed along so he or she can graduate.
Failure to adequately access the hand skills of our applicants prior to admitting them into dental school represents a considerable risk to students and dental schools alike. Poorly performing students face the real possibility of repeating a year or 2 of dental school, all at considerable cost. Dental schools can ill-afford the loss of tuition if a student is dismissed. And the worst-case scenario would be to graduate a student that has not obtained the necessary skills to competently treat their patients.
Our next challenge was to integrate the Simodont into a dental school curriculum to enhance the quality of learning for students. These technologies aim not to replace or remove the current methodologies but rather to augment and support that which has worked in dental education for many years. These technologies have become a disrupter and a driver to evolve dental education to a higher level.
One of the most significant areas of improvement in dental education is the ability to machine grade using artificial intelligence. Utilizing technologies like intraoral digital scanners, comparison software, and innovative procedural assessments with the Simodont and Manikin allows dental schools to provide accurate, objective assessments across the entire dental education program from preclinical to clinical training.
THE BENEFITS OF PATIENT-CENTRIC SIMULATION
Patient-centric simulation is a customized, end-to-end workflow of an entire mouth rehabilitation and reconstruction using a simulated patient and all the tools currently available to dental schools or dental practices. This type of simulation evolves the way dental and dental hygiene students and professionals learn by educating them in lifelike scenarios that would be faced by a dental professional.
Here is how a patient-centric simulation works: A simulated patient is created in an EHR system, containing a complete record of his or her health history, clinical examination, radiographs, and any other supporting documentation necessary to support the patient’s dental health. A treatment plan and treatment sequence are developed and presented to the patient for acceptance. Once accepted, the plan is scheduled, and the production value is tracked using dental software while each procedure in the plan is performed and assessed. Simulated events allow the necessary development of a dental professional’s full-mouth reconstruction skills before using those skills on an actual patient. In addition, dental software is used to assess how well they do when comparing completed treatment to planned treatment. Gaining a clearer understanding of the unintended consequences of these differences in production can dramatically improve the bottom line of a struggling practice.
Increased opportunity of high-fidelity simulation exercises will not only improve their clinical acumen, but hopefully help to make up for experiences lost due to circumstances beyond their control, such as COVID-19.
THE FUTURE OF TECHNOLOGY IN DENTAL EDUCATION
While technology has progressed rapidly in recent years, there is still lots of room for growth and advancement. Technology continues to advance rapidly and has touched just about every aspect of our lives. Technology has the potential to impact the learning cycle of dentists for their entire professional lives, from the time an aspiring dentist or hygienist begins to think about a career in the dental profession until the time they are ready to retire.
PDS is a new solution to this issue and will continue to utilize the latest technologies available to simulate dentistry and educate students and professionals to enhance their skills, repetitions, speed, and confidence.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Dr. Callan earned his DMD degree in 1983 from the Medical College of Georgia School of Dentistry. Following 17 years in private practice, he joined the Dental College of Georgia’s faculty, where he served for 20 years, the last 12 years as chair of the department of general dentistry. His research interests include the educational applications of modern technology and improving dental education through curriculum reform. He is a member of many dental organizations, including the ADA, the American Dental Education Association, the International College of Dentists, the Pierre Fauchard Academy, the OKU Dental Honor Society, and the Hinman Dental Society. He is the co-founder and co-owner of Promethean Dental Systems, LLC. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.
Dr. Cooper is a 1977 graduate of the Medical College of Georgia School of Dentistry. He maintained a private practice in his hometown of Trenton, Ga, for approximately 30 years before joining academics, achieving the rank of professor. Dr. Cooper received multiple honors, including the Judson C. Hickey Teaching Excellence award. He maintained a busy faculty practice concentrating on multidisciplinary cases and team development. He is a member of the ADA and a Fellow in the AGD, the Pierre Fauchard Academy, the OKU Dental Honor Society, and the Hinman Dental Society. He is a co-founder and co-owner of Promethean Dental Systems, LLC. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclosure: The authors are co-founders and co-owners of Promethean Dental Systems, LLC.