Evolving Dental Education Through Advanced Simulation 

By Dr. Rick Callan and Dr. Jerry Cooper, Promethean Dental Systems.

Dr. Rick Callan

Promethean Dental Systems began in 2019 with the primary goal of improving dental education using advanced simulation. Our team of experienced dental educators, technology specialists, and practice management experts has created a myriad of educational experiences designed to maximize the learning potential throughout the entire dental life cycle: from pre-admissions to retirement. 

Using digital dental technology, dental practice software, virtual didactic presentations, and hands-on simulation (both traditional and haptic), we seek to provide our colleagues the opportunity to increase their knowledge of dentistry, enhance their hand skills and technical expertise, and improve the efficiency of their practice.

Dental Education 

Jerry Cooper

The curriculum of the dental schools in the United States is regulated by the American Dental Education Association through a recurring seven-year accreditation cycle. Although the standards for accreditation are established by the American Dental Education Association, how a school achieves these standards is determined by the school itself.  Dental education has traditionally included the teaching of the basic sciences and necessary dental knowledge through a series of didactic lectures. 

This is followed by many hours of instruction and practice in a simulated environment utilizing a dental typodont.  Following the successful completion of these exercises, a student is permitted to practice these newly acquired skills on a patient in a closely monitored clinical setting. Graduates from ADEA accredited dental schools must pass a national board examination which affirms the knowledge of the science, materials, and techniques required of a professional dental practitioner. To acquire a license to practice in a particular state, each candidate must also pass a clinical examination which tests their diagnostic acumen, technical knowledge, and hand skills.

Dental materials and techniques continue to evolve, enhancing our ability to provide patients the opportunity to experience optimal oral health. Technology is changing not only the way we treat our patients, but also the way we educate our students. Contemporary learning theories and advances in the understanding of the cognitive process serve as guides on how to improve learning and enhance skill acquisition. Dental education and the dental profession should maximize the benefits of these important discoveries. 

Promethean Dental System’s multi-modal approach to learning combines modern learning theory with state-of-the-art technology. We believe students learn best, and retain information (and skills) longer, when they learn the information (or skills) in a variety of ways (multi-modal). This learning is best accomplished over a period of time, with properly spaced exposures to the information or task. Appropriate, timely feedback is also critical to the learning process. 

In addition to the time-proven use of the typodont for simulation of dental procedures, Promethean Dental Systems has implemented the use of the Simodont Dental Trainer. 

The Simodont Dental Trainer is a virtual-haptic simulator that provides a more realistic dental experience for its operator: virtual in the sense that you are working on something that isn’t really there, and haptic as a life-like sense of touch and feel. Add to these attributes the Simodont’s ability to create a self-learning environment, providing immediate feedback, both outcome and informational feedback. This coupled with the purely objective assessment provided by the Simodont makes it an ideal tool for both teaching and assessment. We also are strong believers in the adage that “Assessment Drives Learning.” 

COVID 19

COVID-19 has made an impact on just about every inch of our lives, and that goes for dental education as well as dental practices across our country. Almost two years later, we’re still fighting this battle and dental schools and dental practices are forced to find new ways to accomplish their mission.

Safety is key and without adaptation, many dental schools and dental practices are left with few options. For dental students, the greatest impact is the reduction of clinical repetitions prior to graduating dental school. This has led to a lack of confidence in their own ability to be successful practitioners. Because of this relative lack of clinical experience, newly licensed professionals have difficulty achieving production targets. They also lack the knowledge and understanding of the end-to-end workflow process that comes from years of practice experience. 

In parallel, seasoned licensed professionals may lack repetitions in certain procedural areas. The use of the same modalities can be beneficial to the learning of new techniques and processes to improve the speed and efficiency of the end-to-end workflow. Dental practices utilize digital dentistry and digital software in varying ways, but the practices we collaborate with who maximize their use are the most efficient and fastest growing practices.  

Evolving Dental Education 

Promethean Dental Systems combines all modes of dental education to deliver the outcomes sought by students and licensed professionals.  The following table demonstrates how the various modalities can be used to deliver the desired outcomes to students and licensed professionals.

Skill Building

Promethean Dental Systems provides skill building courses in every mode of dental education. We leverage didactic courses, both live and online, to provide safe, individualized learning that is objectively assessed.  We leverage typodonts and the Simodont to simulate dental procedures like restorative preparations and restorations, prosthodontics, periodontics, endodontics, implants, and hygiene that are machine graded and objectively assessed. We provide a comprehensive series of courses on digital dentistry acquisition, design, and manufacturing. Lastly, we provide courses on the digital technology that is used to manage dental practices. We provide learning that is single mode and multimodal.

Repetition Boost

Promethean Dental Systems provides self-guided procedural learning and a “repetition boost” that is needed by both students and licensed professionals. The Simodont allows learners to login securely and access the procedural cases assigned to them. Cases can be conducted as self-guided learning and can be executed at a five-to-one ratio when compared to the same experience when using a typodont. 

The Simodont can be used to boost repetitions using variants to standard procedures. The boost provides the ability to get hundreds of simulated procedures, boost confidence, increase speed and production, and improve outcomes. Although the Simodont works best in tandem with a typodont for multimodal procedural learning, it is the only dental education modality that can be used for self-guided learning, accurate, timely and objective feedback, and repetition boost.

Workflow Experience

Promethean Dental Systems provides a customized full-mouth reconstruction, simulating the end-to-end workflow from the CBCT scan to the completion of the treatment plan. A simulated patient is created in an IHR containing a complete record of the patient’s health history, clinical examination, radiographs, and more. A treatment plan and sequence of treatment is developed. Training on how to present the treatment plan to the patient, including finances and scheduling, is included. The treatment of the simulated patient is then actuated using the IHR, Dental Intelligence, Simodont and typodonts. 

The treatment plan will consist of restorative, prosthodontic, periodontal, endodontic, implants, hygiene, and digital dentistry procedures. The simulation course can be taken individually (as a dentist, hygienist, or digital technician) or as a practice. All treatment is documented in the patient record and each simulation element is assessed and machine graded. Penalties are applied for poor skill demonstration, lack of comprehensiveness, and other factors that affect the production total for the treatment plan. The final grade is a real-life combination of clinical performance and operational performance from treatment beginning to treatment end. 

Summary 

Promethean Dental Systems is always exploring new technologies and new modes of learning to build skills, provide safe educational courses, objectively assess all skills, provide self-guided learning, boost repetitions, and provide end to end workflow experience for students and licensed professionals.

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