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Getting students back to dentistry: New King's investment in simulation facilities for dental education

King’s has committed to an immediate investment in new high-fidelity haptic machines and the refurbishment of the clinical skills area.

Students use the prototype haptic machines in 2019
Students use the prototype haptic machines in 2019

Simulation is a pivotal cornerstone of dental undergraduate and postgraduate training. Through the virtual offering of high-fidelity haptic machines and low fidelity phantom-head simulators, students are provided with a safe and structured environment to develop their clinical competence over an increasingly wide range of clinical areas.

The Covid-19 pandemic has placed increased emphasis on the importance of simulation in dental education. The faculty has evolved to accommodate the requirements of social distancing measures in our clinics and other procedures designed to protect our patients and students. In response to this changed environment, King’s has demonstrated a strong commitment to enhanced simulation facilities by committing to an immediate £3 million investment in new high-fidelity haptic machines and the refurbishment of the clinical skills area at Guy’s Hospital. Students of the Faculty of Dentistry, Oral & Craniofacial Sciences can now be assured of access to world class dental simulation facilities throughout the course of their clinical education at King’s.

Closely simulating a clinical patient experience, the haptic machines will ensure that our education provision and student development will continue to be delivered, despite changes in clinical care during the COVID era. Haptics technologies in dental simulation allow students to experience touch in a computer environment by interacting with 3-dimensional virtual reality dental models through associated touch tools. This solution is being adopted by most dental institutions in the UK and Europe to alleviate the pressure and demand on the usage of dental chairs and patient flow.

The faculty has a long relationship with simulation and haptic machines. Students have used the haptic prototype machines for the last 11 years, and the new units will support the new dental curriculum to integrate more novel applications across all clinical years. They can be used more formatively outside of rigid clinical slots as airline pilots do with flight simulators; and the flexible system can extend to the new the BSc in Therapy and Hygiene programme. The new high-fidelity machines offer different applications not used before at King’s, such as in operative dentistry, prosthodontics, periodontics, endodontics, implant and digital dentistry.

The new investment by King’s will also enable the faculty to refurbish the clinical skills area on floor 20 of Guy’s Tower. The more traditional phantom-head simulation set up complements the haptic machines and the refurbishment will offer the ability to teach in smaller, more flexible and bespoke groups. Students will also be able to use the intra-oral scanners in conjunction with the haptic devices, aligning the simulation facilities to the clinical environment. It will be possible for students to carry out state-of-the-art CAD/CAM dentistry on real case scenarios, in both the clinics and the simulation environments – truly a world-class learning environment.

The closing of the campuses at King’s College London has provided the faculty an opportunity to commence the installation of the haptic machines and the refurbishment of the clinical skills area. The faculty looks forward to welcoming new and returning students back to campus for the 2020-2021 academic year and making use of these new state-of-the art simulation facilities.