Simulation clinic fills gap in dental training
Dentistry and oral health students at the University of Adelaide can now perfect their skills in a clinical environment using the latest simulation technology.
An advanced $6 million Dental Simulation Clinic has opened in the School of Dentistry to give students hands- on experience with the technologies and techniques found in a modern clinical setting.
School Dean, Professor Johann de Vries, said the new clinic had placed Adelaide at the forefront of dental training in Australia.
"Not only is it exciting and wonderful for students and staff, but practising dentists in the State also think it's fantastic," he said.
"I've been inundated with the most positive emails from dentists since the opening. It's a new hub for the entire dental profession and a great facility for ongoing professional development."
Professor de Vries has overseen some extraordinary advances in his profession since the days of his own training more than 40 years ago.
"We used to practice our skills on an old head-on-the- stick - we called them 'phantom heads'," he said.
The contrast with the new facility couldn't be greater. It is in fact a series of mini clinics featuring everything contained in a real clinical environment - and more.
There are an impressive 95 individual simulators, including four of the latest 3D virtual reality haptic simulators.
"There are dozens of practice and treatment stations, each with a simulated patient, and computers providing education material," Professor de Vries said.
"The haptic technology provides immediate tactile feedback to students while performing their different tasks. Students also have access to the latest audio visual equipment which further enhances their learning experience, and there's even a vending machine which dispenses teeth."
The clinic was made possible by a $2.8 million grant from Health Workforce Australia, with additional funding from the University and the South Australian Foundation for Dental Education and Research.
Dental students will spend more than 550 hours in the simulation clinic as part of their curriculum, while Bachelor of Oral Health students will receive more than 300 hours of simulation training.
The Australian Dental Council has also started using the facility to assess the skills of international dental graduates.
Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Warren Bebbington, said the clinic setting was perfectly aligned with the University's focus on 'small-group discovery' under the new Strategic Plan, Beacon of Enlightenment.
"Small-group discovery is critical to the future success of our students and it is something which we feel has been lost in a great many research universities," he said.
"The Dental Simulation Clinic is a perfect environment to foster the intensity and curiosity that go hand-in-hand with such small group learning. It is a highly flexible space, ideally suited to clusters of students who can work with each other at individual stations, while being mentored by our academic staff."
Professor Bebbington said directed and self-directed learning would be tailored at the clinic which supports different modes of education.
"This facility will be instrumental in developing the all- important clinical skills needed by students and will directly benefit the oral health of communities right across Australia in future years."