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Simulation within the VCU School of Dentistry has completely changed the learning experience. Students learn faster using computerized feedback, allowing them to practice more in the same amount of time. Experience in the school’s two labs familiarizes students with a clinical setting, making the transition from lab to patient care a smooth one.

Virtual reality simulation

The VCU School of Dentistry is one of seven dentistry schools in the nation with DentSim technology, an interactive system combining a patient, an online instructor and a limitless data bank of dental procedures and medical data into one product. VCU’s Virtual Reality Simulation Laboratory — one of the largest in the country — boasts 20 DentSim computerized mannequins that provide real-time feedback, allowing for fast evaluation and correction of students’ errors.

Students begin working in the virtual reality lab during the first week of school, exposing them to the psychomotor skill-development aspect of dentistry from the beginning of their studies. The lab setting allows students to learn tooth preparations using appropriate operator and patient positions while working in clinic-like conditions with standard clinical equipment. The student is being trained in a true clinical work environment.

Non-virtual simulation

The Woolwine Simulation Lab contains similar equipment to the Virtual Reality Lab, but lacks the high-tech tracking devices and computer analysis. Boasting 108 A-dec mannequins, the non-computerized lab can accommodate one class at a time. Students learn to operate high- and slow-speed handpieces, use indirect vision (work with a mirror, upside down, just as they eventually will in their own practices) and self-evaluate their work. The students receive faculty feedback and perform competency assessment procedures to prepare them for patient care.

The Woolwine Simulation Lab is used for continued skill development in tooth preparations, especially more complex operative dentistry or fixed prosthodontics. Each station in the mannequin lab features an individual computer monitor so students can view videos, slides and real-time demonstrations projected from the main A/V station by the instructor.

Combining the two simulation labs accelerates motor skill development; as a result, students can begin to work in clinical settings under faculty supervision in their very first year.

For more information, visit the VCU School of Dentistry website.