First year students at the School of Dentistry must undergo rigorous training as they not only learn oral anatomy and dental conditions but also how to use a burr (drill). This can be a challenging task especially for those with little prior experience or poor 3D perception. Traditionally, students practice on plastic teeth using their burr to cut cavity preparations. If a mistake is made they will try again on a new tooth. This can get expensive for the school as novice students get a handle on their tools and learn necessary cavity preparation forms. There are several dental simulators on the market which create an environment in which the student can practice their exercises digitally instead of on plastic teeth. Unfortunately, these devices are prohibitively expensive for mass deployment.
This project focused on taking off the shelf technology and modifying it to create a cost effective training tool for first year students. ZBrush from Pixologic was used with in-house modifications to provide a unique cavity preparation interface. Students could repeatedly attempt various cavity preps on different tooth anatomies without the added expense of practicing on physical media. These exercises help develop a strong understanding of the 3D space they will be working in. Once the student was confident in their approach, they would then attempt the shape using their burr on physical media.
Various posters and papers were done on the project and it’s success including several presentations at IADR (International Association of Dental Research). The project is now in search of additional funding to extend the capabilities of the program to include cost-effective haptic feedback and stereoscopic display.