A new tool in dentistry is changing the way students are training. And virtual reality could change even more than that.
“What is really cool about this new technology in our curriculum is that we can have a tooth right in front of us and see it in ways that can’t ever be conveyed through traditional two-dimensional images,” said Jerry Liu, a student at the University of California San Francisco’s school of dentistry.
According to UCSF:
The traditional approach for dental students learning about teeth before seeing real patients was to look at them in two dimensions in textbooks. More recently, digital tools such as virtual and augmented reality have allowed more flexibility in learning.
Now, the UCSF School of Dentistry is adding virtual and augmented reality for its first-year students.
“This is cutting-edge Silicon Valley technology applied in dentistry to make a big clinical impact,” said Kevin Montgomery, PhD, the CEO of eHuman Inc., the company that developed the Tooth Atlas digital anatomy learning tools. “It allows us to see tooth anatomy like no human ever has been able to do before.”
Education isn’t the only potential aspect of dentistry that could be affected by virtual reality.
The Verge last year reported that an experiment in the UK studied the affect of virtual reality on how patients experienced painful procedures. According to The Verge:
Dentists and patients alike want to know how to make dental work less traumatic — and one possible solution may be to combine it with virtual reality. That’s why researchers in the UK enlisted 80 people who needed a cavity filled or a tooth pulled, and separated them into three groups. They gave the first two groups VR headsets, but not the unlucky third control group.
The VR groups either got to explore a beach or navigate a city. The people in the control group just stared at the ceiling while the dentist yanked on their teeth. (Everyone in the study got pain meds or sedation if they needed it.) Patients were surveyed both immediately after their appointments, and a week later. The people immersed in the coastal VR reported less stress and pain than both the patients navigating through the virtual cityscape and the ones with no distraction.