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Using virtual and augmented reality technologies to teach dental students

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Virtual and augmented reality technology is being used as a key teaching tool for University of Queensland dental students who practice in 3D headsets before working with real clients.

Dr. Sobia Zafar of UQ’s Digital Dentistry team The School of Dentistry says technology-enhanced learning has changed the experience of more than 400 students over the past four years.

Training a dental student is a complex process as it requires many fine motor skills as well as limb and eye coordination.


Despite conducting simulation sessions to ensure a smooth transition to the clinic, 87% of students said they felt they needed additional training before being placed in a real environment.


That’s why we decided to incorporate both virtual and augmented reality technologies into our classes to provide our students with immersive and specialized training.


Virtual reality allows students to practice in a safe environment, make correctable mistakes, and boost their confidence before entering the clinic where they treat real clients. ”


Dr. Sobia Zafar, Digital Dentistry Team, UQ School of Dentistry

Wearing virtual reality headsets, students can manipulate 3D holographic images to examine parts of the human body, especially those relevant to their research, such as the anatomy of the head and neck, through the skin.

Using augmented reality technology, students don headsets and built-in sensors mimic their movements as they navigate a virtual dental office and interact with virtual patients.

Students can also practice administering local anesthesia using software co-developed by Dr. Zafar and Dr. Jessica Zachar. This is new in this field of education.

Their dedication to student development was recognized at UQ’s 2022 Teaching and Learning Awards..

Dr. Zachar said The team’s goal was to provide a stimulating learning environment to help students develop into well-rounded medical professionals.

“These digital teaching tools have helped students reach their full potential and expand their knowledge of dental trauma management, dental anatomy, and local anesthesia management,” said Dr. Zachar.

“We want to provide optimal health care and prepare students to become leaders in their careers and communities.

“We are very happy that our work has been recognized in this year’s Teaching and Learning Awards.

“We hope this will inspire other health professionals to consider digital, innovative learning, as this teaching style is not limited to dentistry alone.”

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