Dental training has come a long way thanks to the advent of new technology and the next generation of hygienists are benefiting the most.
Take the students at the University of Leeds Dental Institute as an example. They will be the first in the UK to utilise 3D printing in order to create realistic mouths to explore and practice procedures on.
It is hoped the technology will help the students to bridge the gap between learning the theory of dentistry and actually treating a patient for the very first time.
The students will cut their own teeth on the simulation technology, allowing them to hone their dental skills on virtual patients. So sensitive and lifelike is the mouth, that it even gives tactile feedback so students can experience the difference between drilling into healthy enamel or decaying teeth.
Thanks to this sensation of resistance, students will learn how much pressure to use when drilling, as well as how to tackle more complex procedures such as opening a tooth for root canal treatment.
Up until now, dental students have undergone training using what is known as a phantom head, and although the heads have evolved over the years, they are comparatively basic and nothing like having a real patient to treat.
This new technology opens up a whole new standard of dental training allowing students to build confidence and in turn relieve patient anxiety.
Paul Brunton, director of student education at the University of Leeds Dental Institute, said: “Dentistry is all about skill, dexterity and most importantly, practice. So having a virtual mouth to test and perfect your skills on, time and time again, means our students are going to be very well practiced before they treat a patient.”
The virtual mouth has another high-tech feature; it allows dental students to play back what they have done in order to examine their technique and analyse their performance so they can identify key areas for improvement.
Mr Brunton added students were thrilled with the huge step forward in their training the virtual mouths presented them with.