SYDNEY, Oct. 30 (Xinhua) — Dentistry students at Australia’s University of Newcastle (UoN) can practice administering dental injections in a virtual environment before they take on real life patients, thanks to ground breaking virtual reality (VR) technology.
The system is a world first for the field and was devised at UoN by oral health lecturer Denise Higgins, who explained on Tuesday that previously students would go straight from lectures, to practicing on each other, and then patients.
“From listening to student feedback over the years, I knew they felt they were missing something between the theory and practising on their peers and patients,” Higgins said.
“Administering anaesthetic needles is an incredibly intricate process, and not something many feel confident doing without extensive practice.”
As well as innovating with VR, Higgins has also developed lifelike dummies for students to practice on, experimenting with materials until she found the right mix to replicate a human mouth.
“The material is made out of salt, water and fibre, which makes a material similar to the lining inside the mouth,” Higgins said.
“I developed my idea from proof of concept, to playdough model, to design document and was able to collaborate with a company who brought it to life.”
“To our knowledge, nothing of its kind exists in the same format we have here – the whole process has revolutionized our teaching and has been incredibly rewarding,” she said.
UoN innovation team manager Craig Williams said the virtual anesthesia program was developed to imitate real-world situations that students would face in the workplace.
“Simulation is a wonderful teaching resource as students can participate in a controlled, standardised and safe environment,” Williams said.
“We hope the tool will be useful on a global scale and may eventually apply to anyone working in the field.”