Experience with virtual reality-based technology in teaching restorative dental procedures.

Judith A. Buchanan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


This article reports on extensive experience with advanced simulation at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Dental Medicine (UPSDM). Virtual reality-based technology (VRBT) or advanced simulation is currently available for the instruction of dental students in preclinical restorative procedures. UPSDM was one of the first schools in the world to have extensive experience with VRBT technology using an advanced simulation unit (DentSim) from DenX, Ltd. UPSDM's experience consists of several years of research using control and experimental groups, employing students to participate in an investigative project, and using the units for remediation and a supplement to the preclinical laboratory. Currently, all first-year students (Class of 2007 and Class of 2008) are receiving most of their preparative operative training on the VRBT units. UPSDM started with one (beta) version unit in 1998, which was later updated and expanded first to four units and recently to fifteen units. This communication is presenting the studies that were of fundamental importance in making the decision to acquire fifteen units in 2003. The areas of main interest to the SDM concerning this technology were its use in teaching, refreshing, and remediating students in restorative procedures and its effectiveness as a teaching methodology in relation to time, efficiency, and faculty. Several studies with varying parameters were performed at various time points. The limited statistical analysis conducted was not conclusive for all measures, and in some cases the data only suggest areas of possible significance. This is due to the low number of students who could access the limited number of available units and the change of protocols in response to student and faculty input. Overall, the results do suggest, however, that students learn faster, arrive at the same level of performance, accomplish more practice procedures per hour, and request more evaluations per procedure or per hour than in our traditional laboratories. Students' attitudes, as measured by surveys, group interviews, and private interviews, are mixed. Our overall evaluation of our experience with this technology has been positive and led to the purchase of additional units, its full incorporation into our curriculum, and curriculum revision to maximize its potential. Our conclusion is that this technology offers significant potential in the field of dental education and that further use and investigation are both desired and justified.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1258-1265
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Dental Education
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2004


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