Virtual teaching at Australian university improves dental reality

virtual reality educational tool

Virtual and augmented reality technologies are being used as an important educational tool for dental students at the University of Queensland, who practice with 3D headsets before working on real clients.

Dr. Sobia Zafar of the UQ School of Dentistry’s Digital Dental Team said technology-enhanced learning has transformed the experience of more than 400 students over the past four years.

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

“Despite simulation sessions to ensure a smooth transition to clinics, 87% of students said they needed additional training before being placed in a real environment.

“That’s why we decided to integrate virtual and augmented reality technologies into our courses to provide additional 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.”

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

Using 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 using software co-developed by Dr. Zafar and Dr. Jessica Zachar, a novelty in this teaching field.

Dr. Zachar said the team’s goal is to provide stimulating learning environments so students can become well-rounded healthcare 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,” said Dr. Zachar.

“We want students to become leaders within the profession and the local community, providing optimal health care.”

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