AKU launches high-fidelity dental simulation lab

Karachi:September 1:A one-of-a-kind, high-fidelity dental simulation lab that promises a safer and more effective way to educate dental professionals and students was inaugurated at the Aga Khan University on Wednesday.
Dentistry requires students to practise precise procedures that affect a sensitive part of the body. Often students have no alternative other than to master these delicate techniques by practising on patients: an uncomfortable situation for the novice learner that can also put patients at risk.

The new dental simulation lab now offers an opportunity for novice and practicing dentists to polish these technical skills. At the AKU’s newly launched facility, 17 state-of-the-art ‘phantom heads’ — patient mannequins — are available, specially designed to mimic the challenges
of a real-life clinical environment.

Each mannequin contains the full range of dental instruments, tools such as air and water suction, and computer-based feedback facilities needed to help students and practising dentists improve their skills.

There are many procedures in the nine subspecialties of dentistry, such as
gum surgery and the installation of dental implants, which require a great deal of expertise and practice to execute.

“You may have the knowledge, but you have to develop the hand-eye coordination, the motor skills and judgment associated with basic and advanced dentistry procedures,” says Dr Farhan Raza Khan, associate professor of operative dentistry at the AKU.

“A simulation lab offers an environment where you can practise, practise, practise until you are ready to treat a patient as a person, rather than worry only about their teeth.”

In a typical session at the facility, an experienced faculty member can demonstrate how to carry out a dental restoration on a patient mannequin with the procedure being broadcast simultaneously to all 16 workstations screens. Every student can then follow the instructor’s lead on their own mannequin with the system providing immediate feedback on the success of their attempts.

Since there is no risk of harming a patient and no limits to repeating the technique, students can continue to hone their skills until they are ready to learn another procedure.

Unlike on-the-job-training in a clinic, the lab also offers the opportunity to learn from experts around the world.

“We offer a ‘global’ classroom, with teaching and learning sessions offered by specialist dentists from anywhere in the world in real time, supported by our advanced videoconferencing facilities. This really does make us a one-of-a-kind lab in Pakistan,” said Dr Mubassar Fida, associate professor of orthodontics at the AKU.

CIME Director Dr Charles Docherty stated that the simulation lab offered the advantage of a truly personalised learning experience where each student could practice their own skills at their own pace while the technologically integrated environment enabled students to become competent at a far quicker speed.

“The vision of the CIME is to seamlessly blend simulation into teaching curricula for medical professionals. Investments like the dental simulation lab will deliver improvements in teaching and learning which will eventually raise standards of practice across the profession,” Dr Docherty added.

The university initially plans to begin using the facility to educate students pursuing a two-year Associate of Science in Dental Hygiene as well as residents undergoing specialised four-year programmes in operative dentistry and orthodontics. It will also be available to students from dental schools across the country and practising professionals interested in continuing professional education in dentistry.The news.