Moog, an East Aurora, New York company whose products include flight simulators, in collaboration with the Academic Center for Dentistry Amsterdam (The Netherlands) have created the The Moog Simodont dental trainer – a virtual reality learning environment designed for use in dental education. This VR training tool was created to meet the challenges currently faced within dental curricula where there is an increasing need to obtain educational materials, such as extracted human teeth with the appropriate pathology.
The dental trainer uses haptic technology – it can recreate the sense of touch by applying forces, vibrations, or motions to the user. This mechanical stimulation allows the user to create virtual objects in a computer simulation and to control them. Haptic devices can also use tactile sensors that measure forces exerted by the user on the interface. With the Moog Simodont, dental students manipulate a simulated hand piece and simulated hand mirror while watching a screen that shows the instruments working in a virtual mouth, while wearing glasses similar to those worn while watching 3D movies.
The Leeds School of Dentistry in the UK has developed a ‘pre-clinical skills’ library of haptic exercises in an attempt to introduce the students to essential skills such as cavity design and caries removal and crown preparation. The exercises can be used by first year students at a very early stage – in a safe environment – to develop core surgical skills. Senior students are able to load their patients onto the system and practice complex procedures such as crowns, in advance of the real clinical event – a procedure called ‘patient-specific surgical rehearsal.’