An evaluation of two dental simulation systems: virtual reality versus contemporary non-computer-assisted

T Roma Jasinevicius, Michael Landers, Suchitra Nelson, Alice Urbankova
Journal of Dental Education 2004, 68 (11): 1151-62
Contemporary dental simulation systems were developed to improve dental students' transition from the preclinical laboratory to the clinic. The purpose of this study was to compare the efficacy of a virtual reality computer-assisted simulation system (VR) with a contemporary non-computer-assisted simulation system (CS). The objectives were to determine whether there were differences between the two systems in the quality of dental students' preparations and the amount of faculty instruction time. Students who completed their first year of dental school and had no previous experience preparing teeth were group matched according to their performance in the first-year Dental Anatomy laboratory course and assigned to VR (n=15) or CS (n=13). In the summer, they spent two weeks (approximately 3 hrs/day) executing amalgam and crown preparations on typodont teeth. Short presentations describing the preparations were given to both groups; however, preparation criteria were available on the computer for the VR group, while the CS group received handouts. Both groups could request feedback from faculty, although VR also obtained input from the computer. A log was kept of all student-faculty (S-F) interactions. Analysis of the data indicated significant differences between groups for the following variables: mean number of S-F interactions was sixteen for the VR group versus forty-two for the CS group; and mean time of S-F interactions was 1.9+/-2 minutes versus 4.0+/-3 minutes (p<0.001) for VR and CS, respectively. Faculty spent 44.3 hours "interacting" with twenty-eight students, averaging 0.5 hours per VR student and 2.8 hours per CS student. Thus, CS students received five times more instructional time from faculty than did VR students. There were no statistical differences in the quality of the preparations. While further study is needed to assess virtual reality technology, this decreased faculty time in instruction could impact the dental curriculum.

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