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Eur J Dent Educ. 2003 Feb;7(1):13-9.

A pilot study comparing the effectiveness of conventional training and virtual reality simulation in the skills acquisition of junior dental students.

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Dublin Dental School and Hospital, Lincoln Place, Dublin 2, Republic of Ireland. fquinn@dental.tcd.i.e


The use of virtual reality (VR) in the training of operative dentistry is a recent innovation and little research has been published on its efficacy compared to conventional training methods. To evaluate possible benefits, junior undergraduate dental students were randomly assigned to one of three groups: group 1 as taught by conventional means only; group 2 as trained by conventional means combined with VR repetition and reinforcement (with access to a human instructor for operative advice); and group 3 as trained by conventional means combined with VR repetition and reinforcement, but without instructor evaluation/advice, which was only supplied via the VR-associated software. At the end of the research period, all groups executed two class 1 preparations that were evaluated blindly by 'expert' trainers, under traditional criteria (outline, retention, smoothness, depth, wall angulation and cavity margin index). Analyses of resulting scores indicated a lack of significant differences between the three groups except for scores for the category of 'outline form', for group 2, which produced significantly lower (i.e. better) scores than the conventionally trained group. A statistical comparison between scores from two 'expert' examiners indicated lack of agreement, despite identical written and visual criteria being used for evaluation by both. Both examiners, however, generally showed similar trends in evaluation. An anonymous questionnaire suggested that students recognized the benefits of VR training (e.g. ready access to assessment, error identification and how they can be corrected), but the majority felt that it would not replace conventional training methods (95%), although participants recognized the potential for development of VR systems in dentistry. The most common reasons cited for the preference of conventional training were excessive critical feedback (55%), lack of personal contact (50%) and technical hardware difficulties (20%) associated with VR-based training.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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