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New realistic mouth models aim to improve dental education

The mouth models replicate hard and soft tissue to provide dental students with a realistic learning experience. (Photograph: University of Birmingham)

Wed. 20. March 2019


BIRMINGHAM, UK: New research being carried out in collaboration with the University of Birmingham will allow dental students to train on dental models that possess the tactile qualities of real mouths. Among the applications will be learning how to use periodontal probes to check for periodontal disease.

The project is being run by Dr Michael Milward, a reader and honorary consultant in periodontics at the university’s School of Dentistry; Dr Paul Cooper, Professor of Oral Biology at the school; and Richard Arm, a senior research fellow at Nottingham Trent University in the UK. The models feature realistic gingivae and tongues to allow students to learn how to examine the mouth and check for disease safely. Both the tongue and the gingivae are made from synthetic gels and fibres and vary in hardness to mimic living tissue, whereas the teeth and jaw bones are made from bone-simulating resin.

“These models meet an unmet need in dental education and will allow us to better prepare our students for clinical work,” said Milward. “The feedback we have received from students and staff has been extremely positive and the final version has already been introduced into undergraduate teaching,” he continued. “While some models are commercially available, no models combine the replica hard and soft tissues in this way to provide a realistic learning experience.”

According to Milward, these developments provide a huge step forward in dental education and benefit not only dental students, but also the retraining dental workforce and patients. The researchers aim to further enhance the models to allow dental students to evolve additional clinical skills.

“The aim is to give students the psychological experience of how it feels to perform real dentistry, but in a safe learning environment,” said Arm. “Until now, current dental models haven’t provided a realistic enough experience for students and the inclusion of a tongue will mimic the challenge which dentists face and better prepare them for their first clinic.”

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