Use virtual reality to train dental professionals

Background

Education in medicine and dentistry has evolved to incorporate technology. This has led to increased opportunities to practice clinical skills in simulated environments before undertaking procedures on patients. This has led to better precision in skills involving dexterity and hand coordination. This is especially important in areas such as dentistry.

One of these technologies is virtual reality (VR). It allows the user to explore and manipulate real or artificial 3D multimedia sensory environments generated by computer in real time and can be used to win know-how. Compared with traditional and non-technological teaching methods, VR software could lead to more economical, engaging and reliable training.

External view of participants during their VR simulation experience

While the development of accurate, high-quality dental treatment techniques is a fundamental part of the delivery of dental care and dental training, we recognize that communication and empathy also play an important role in successful care. to patients. This approach to care is patient-centered.

With a growing aging population keeping their teeth longer, dental professionals are now treating an older cohort with more complex needs, and a patient-centered approach is all the more necessary. Some of these patients may be increasingly fragile and have problems with mobility, hearing and dexterity, all of which play a role in their ability to get to a dental appointment, to follow hygiene instructions. dental care and good toothbrushing care.

How can we best take care of our fragile patients? If dental professionals are fully aware of the experience of these patients, they will be able to find the most appropriate means of providing care and communicating with patients.

The study

We have developed a virtual reality training simulation tool that mimics the visual, physical and auditory experience of an increasingly fragile dental patient with complex needs (some related to age) by visiting a dentist and receiving oral health advice.

We have undertaken a before-after test to test the acceptability of the simulation and its impact on the perceived confidence in the treatment of fragile patients. Study participants were trained and qualified dentists and dental professionals.

The participants’ experience of the virtual dental environment during the simulation

Results to date

Our preliminary results suggest that the majority of those still in training (84.6%) and skilled professionals (73.6%) found simulation useful and would like more simulation training. Interestingly, the before and after scores related to confidence in treating frail patients improved dramatically for those still in training and reduced for those who were skilled and practicing for a while.

Conclusion

As we continue to analyze our results, the emerging evidence suggests that VR has a role to play in improving the way we train our dental professionals to understand the patient perspective. VR could also be part of the continuing vocational training of qualified people. For skilled people, this simulation can perhaps interrupt the routines, giving a different perspective on the evolution of the patient profile.

Next steps

We plan to finalize our analysis and seek additional support to develop a more sophisticated simulation that can provide more interaction in the environment and scenarios. We hope to test the simulation with a larger group.

Thanks

  1. Dr Tom Garner – Lecturer in Immersive Technologies at the University of Portsmouth for his support in the development of simulation
  2. Solent NHS Trust Research and Improvement Academy

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