Students train complex dental procedures on Simulife's virtual reality 3D Dental simulator

Paris 12 May 2003The French company Simulife Systems is now marketing 3D Dental, the first virtual reality dental training simulator for students. This product has been developed over the past three years, in collaboration with the Physiology of Manducation Laboratory at Paris 7, Denis Diderot University, and the Analysis and Modellisation in Biological Imagery Laboratory (INRA), in order to create new solutions and high tech softwares for dental faculties. Simulife was founded in the beginning of 2002. The company's mission is to create new solutions and hightech software for odontology and especially for dental schools.


The 3D Dental simulator combines different cutting-edge technologies to create an innovative and powerful teaching tool. Through the hinged "force feedback" arm, 3D Dental allows the student to perform virtual procedures while preserving the tactile sensations. 3D Dental in this way is able to reproduce these tactile sensations experienced during the detection of tooth decay, drilling and filling of cavities, among other procedures. 3D Dental also simulates the resistance and texture properties of the different anatomical tissues encountered.

The virtual reality dental training simulator includes a screen on which the patient with dental problems is displayed. The student selects his or her instrument from the tool kit proposed on the screen and takes hold of the haptic system's stylus. His or her action is immediately translated on the screen through the real-time representation of the instrument. At the same time, the haptic system transmits to the operator's hand the same sensory information which he would experience with the real instrument.

There are three modes for simulating procedures on teeth, which are isolated tooth, complete dental arch with or without gums, and the patient mode, that reproduces and integrates various reactions based on the gestures made. In addition, the 3D Dental simulator features a series of complementary software programmes allowing the trainer to create a highly educational collaboration tool for his or her student. They include the 3D Dental Training, Evaluation and CaseMaker packages.

The training tool allows the virtual simulation of procedures by offering numerous functionalities such as X-rays, mirror, transparency, etc. The student is trained step by step on an isolated tooth, dental arcade or virtual patient with the real reproduction of treatment procedures in mid-line position. The user can create his or her own arcades from the library of available teeth and vary the types of problems encountered.

The evaluation tool with a simple click makes it possible to extract all the information necessary for evaluating the simulation task. It includes treatment history, tools used, time expired, percentage of decay and adjoining infected dentin removed, penetration of the pulp, properties of the cavity based on the occlusion material used, and a 3D display of the cavity produced. The 3D Dental evaluation provides comparison of the case treated with a model case. The trainer can automate this evaluation procedure for all cases turned in by his or her students.

Working on real teeth does not allow procedural repetition or permit the student to go back in case of an error. 3D Dental frees students from this oppressive constraint. Now the student can repeat his or her actions in order to improve the precision of his or her surgical acts on the numerous pathological conditions available. Unlike real cases, the trainer can have all the students work on the same pathological condition and thus establish an objective evaluation grid.

The CaseMaker module enables the instructor to use healthy virtual teeth to generate his or her own pathology cases intuitively using the force feedback system. These new cases can be integrated directly into the 3D Dental training bank. They can be combined with other cases to produce new arcades by incorporating the newly created cases into those already present in the simulator base.

The 3D reconstruction of a teeth library offers a new teaching approach to dental anatomy, providing zoom and rotation functions and even transparencies of different tissues such as enamel, dentin, pulp and decay. 3D Dental allows the trainer to give clear explanations by relying on 3D modelling and by demonstrating which could only be done with difficulty or not at all for natural teeth on a life-size scale.

Simulife Systems implements the installation and initial start-up of the simulator on site and provides training and support days for trainers. Users can sign a hardware and software maintenance contract with access to the Simulife hotline. The company also provides tuning to individual dental school practices and development for specific main classes.

In addition, clients have access to the on-line database, which offers a platform for exchanges among 3D Dental users. This teeth library is routinely augmented with new cases validated by the Simulife team of experts. It allows the user to share his or her own cases produced using the 3D Dental CaseMaker with other 3D Dental users. Of course, customers have unlimited access to the Simulife forums for scientific and educational exchanges through the Simulife Web site.

Leslie Versweyveld

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