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UWA researcher Marcus Pham (left). The augmented reality glasses are currently being trialld by students at the university and could potentially improve dental education and reduce teaching costs. (Photographs: University of Western Australia)
0 Comments Dec 23, 2016 | News Asia Pacific

Augmented reality for improved dental procedures

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PERTH, Australia: An innovative team of researchers at the University of Western Australia (UWA) has developed augmented reality glasses that are designed to help dental students learn more efficiently, improve their handling of procedures and reduce teaching costs. The technology used for the glasses is in its final stage of development and is currently being trialled by students and professors at the university.

The team responsible for developing the device has already been recognised for their potentially revolutionary approach with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) selecting them for inclusion in their prestigious ON Accelerate program. ON Accelerate aims to reward innovation in research, science and business and will provide the researchers with the necessary resources to ideally make their invention available commercially.

Augmented reality (AR) is a type of virtual reality that involves semi-transparent, computer-generated imagery that is superimposed on the user’s view of the real world. This allows them to view both frames of reference simultaneously. Currently, dental students undergo training to acquire manual skills with the close supervision of their educator, which can be overly time-consuming. The technology’s lead developer, UWA student and researcher Marcus Pham, said that the glasses aim to address this inefficiency.

“A big problem at the moment is the amount of interruptions dentists face when performing procedures, with an estimated 20 per cent of their day spent carrying out non-clinical tasks and a significant amount of time spent away from patients during a procedure to review critical information,” Pham said.

“The technology we are developing will change this by providing dentists with all the information they need without them having to interrupt a procedure, so they can focus entirely on the patient.”

“This means the time taken to carry out procedures will be drastically reduced and the quality of the dental work will improve.”

The integration of digital workflows into dental practices has continued to increase in frequency. AR technology has only been used in dental education since 2005, but it is positioned to play an increasingly more prominent role given how complex and demanding dentistry training can be. One of the main benefits of AR is that it allows for dentists to have relevant information displayed right in front of their eyes, instead of having to continuously refer to a computer. This enables students to apply their learned concepts to practical situations more easily and learn the appropriate dental techniques faster.

The AR glasses will also allow the instructing dentists to reduce the amount of time spent with each patient as they can supervise multiple students at one time. Comparative clinical testing is scheduled to begin in January 2017 and the UWA’s dentistry school is expected to officially incorporate the use of the glasses by the middle of the year.

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