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New simulation clinic with 21 phantom manikins and 3D printed sets of teeth

Is this a dream or am I awake? That is the question many people will probably ask themselves when they step into the new simulation clinic at the Department of Dentistry and Oral Health. Here, the future is not just around the corner. It has already arrived.

Twenty-one phantom manikin heads with open mouths, movable cheeks and interchangeable teeth lying in a row. The manikins can be given any kind of dental issue requiring treatment by dental staff. And if the correct diagnosis or optimum set of teeth is not in stock? Then it can be 3D printed in lifelike materials.

Thursday 28 November 2019 is the day when the Department of Dentistry and Oral Health inaugurates its new simulation clinic with its state-of-the-art technology and geared to do more than we imagine.

Photo: Lars Kruse.

Better training and learning possibilities for the students

The simulation clinic with its 21 treatment stations with 21 phantom manikins and room for forty students and one instructor is intended to provide the students with more practical, hands-on experience before they meet their first live patient.

“Just like pilots in a flight simulator, the students now have the chance to practice both basic and complicated dental treatments on phantom manikins before having to try it on real patients. It’s also possible to use 3D printed sets of teeth from actual patient cases, so the students can train the exact treatment that they will later perform on their patient. This gives them really good training and learning," says Associate Professor Sebastian Schlafer, who has been involved in the planning and establishment of the simulation clinic.

Digital cameras have been installed in the operation lamp and in a microscope in the simulation clinic. They record the treatment taking place in the mouth of the phantom manikin. When a teacher undertakes a procedure in the oral cavity of the phantom manikin, it can be transmitted live so that the students can follow the procedure via large screens in the clinic and on a screen located at each of the treatment stations. The recordings can then be saved so that the students can watch the procedure again and study it in detail.

"The new, advanced technology gives our students more opportunities to train and hone their skills during their education. This increases the quality of our teaching, and I'm certain it’s going to lead to better and more assured professionals in our dental clinics," predicts Clinic Manager Birgitte Lüttge.

The idea is for the students to also have access to the simulation clinic outside normal teaching hours, so they can practice treatments whenever they wish.

Aarhus University is a front runner

Scandinavia is among the front runners when it comes to simulated treatment, and the new simulation clinic will really put Aarhus University and the department on the world map. The investment in state-of-the-art technology puts the clinic in a league of its own, and as the only place in Denmark – and indeed one of a few other places around the world – the clinic also has space to work in pairs on the phantom manikin. Almost all other simulation clinics only have single person treatment stations.

This is an important detail, because in real world dental clinics, personnel almost always work together on the patient – for example the dentist and the dental surgery assistant. Team-based training across different professional groups already during training is very valuable once the students graduate. Cooperation across the degree programmes is also one of the cornerstones of the department, which with the merger in 2016 brought together all the dental degree programmes in the same department.

Simulation for other groups of professionals

However, the new simulation clinic will not only benefit the current students. The simulation clinic will also be used for further education and training of dentists, dental hygienists, dental surgery assistants and dental technicians, as well as many other professionals.

"After all, our advanced AV equipment has nothing to do with teeth, and with 3D printing we can actually simulate anything, so we’re happy to loan the clinic to others," says Birgitte Lüttge. She names to surgery training as one possibility. The facilities are also suitable for distance learning as the teacher can transmit the procedure he or she is undertaking live – and not only to the twenty other treatment stations in the clinic, but also to other clinics and other parts of the world.

Future-proofed investment

The new simulation clinic did not come cheap, so it has therefore also been important for the department to ensure that the it does not risk becoming obsolete after a few years.

 "We have carefully selected equipment and technology and invested in both future-proofed and long-term solutions that we can continue to update and develop. We’re extremely proud of our new simulation clinic, and we can’t wait to start using it in earnest," concludes Birgitte Lüttge.

International inspiration and input

In 2017, a small delegation from the department visited the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry at the University of the Pacific to get some experience of high-tech simulated dental treatment. The school in San Francisco has 160 treatment stations and is at the forefront of simulated training.

Experience from San Francisco and elsewhere in the world show that teaching in the simulation stations is not only popular among the students, but also that they acquire really good practical skills from the training on very lifelike materials.

"For the students, already having experience of their dental craft via simulation training gives them a different level of composure and positivity when they meet the patients in the clinic. This frees up energy and time so they can concentrate on all the other things that are also important when they have a patient in the chair – such as psychology, communication and patient safety," says Clinic Manager Birgitte Lüttge.

In general, the department has invested a lot of effort in gathering knowledge and input on simulation treatment from among its own staff and international educational institutions, before beginning the design of the new clinic.

"We considered whether our simulation clinic should be designed with phantom manikins or virtual reality equipment. The visit to the US helped point us in the direction of the phantom manikins. It’s very important that the students physically try to move a cheek and drill in realistic materials rather than only working via digital images. With the phantom manikins, we have much better opportunities to practice realistic four-handed dental treatment, and that has also been a decisive factor for us," explains Sebastian Schlafer, who also visited Dugoni School of Dentistry.



Clinic Manager Birgitte Lüttge
Aarhus University, Department of Dentistry and Oral Health
Email: birgitte@dent.au.dk
Mobile: (+45) 9352 1932