Using virtual and augmented reality technologies to teach dental students

Virtual and augmented reality technologies are being used as an important teaching tool for University of Queensland dentistry students, who practice with 3D headsets before working on real-life clients.

Dr Sobia Zafar from the Digital Dental Team at UQ's School of Dentistry said technology-enhanced learning had transformed the experience of more than 400 students in the past four years.

Training dental students is a complex process as it requires a lot of fine motor skills, as well as hand-foot and eye coordination.

Despite having simulation sessions to provide a smooth transition into clinics, 87 per cent of students said they felt they needed additional training before being put in a real-life setting.

That's why we decided to embed both virtual and augmented reality technologies into our classes to provide extra, immersive training for students.

Virtual reality allows students to practice in a safe environment, make mistakes they can rectify, and improve their confidence before entering a clinic to treat real clients."

Dr Sobia Zafar, Digital Dental Team, UQ's School of Dentistry

When wearing a virtual reality headset, students interact with 3D holographic images that allow them to see through skin to explore the human body, particularly the parts relevant to their studies such as head and neck anatomy.

With the augmented reality technology students wear a headset and built-in sensors mimic their movements as they navigate a virtual dental clinic and interact with a virtual patient.

Students can also practice administering local anesthesia through software co-developed by Dr Zafar and Dr Jessica Zachar, something new to this area of teaching.

Their dedication to student development has been recognized with a commendation in UQ's 2022 Teaching and Learning Awards.

Dr Zachar said the team's goal was to provide stimulating learning environments so students can develop into well-rounded health professionals.

"These digital teaching tools have helped students maximize their potential and expand their knowledge in dental trauma management, dental anatomy and local anesthesia administration," Dr Zachar said.

"We want to set students up to become leaders within the profession and local community, delivering optimum health care.

"It's a great feeling to be recognized for our work in this year's Teaching and Learning Awards.

"We hope this inspires other health professions to consider digital innovative learning as this teaching style is not limited to just dentistry."


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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