Posted 10/01/2019 in News

Dental Students Practice Extractions on 3D Printed Models

Dental Students Practice Extractions on 3D Printed Models

3D printers are no longer a fantasy in a far-off future. These spectacular machines are here and they are already changing the world. In fact, one day, the dentist who performs your wisdom tooth extraction may have learned on a 3D-printed mouth, thanks to researchers at the National University of Singapore (NUS). 

For most of us, a wisdom tooth extraction is a routine procedure. Because of this, we can forget that it is a medical surgery and can have serious consequences. To avoid dangerous pitfalls, dental students study for hundreds of hours before ever touching a real live patient.

Learning Without Real Humans

Previously, to learn a procedure, students had to observe an experienced dentist performing it. I don't know about you, but I have seen a lot of medical TV shows, but I still can't perform open-heart surgery. For hands-on practice, students can use task trainers (picture something similar to a CPR dummy), but they feel unrealistic. 

Dr. Raymond C.W. Wong of NUS understands the limitations of such a technique. “The hardest thing to teach students is the actual 'feel' of the cutting instruments as it comes through many hours of practice,” he said. He also acknowledged the danger of waiting for a student to make an error on a real human being. A mistake helps the student learn, he said, but at what cost to the patient?

Recreating the Real

A team at NUS, led by Dr. Wong and funded by the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Cluster, has delivered a solution. The team of researchers from the university has created a 3D model of a mouth, complete with impacted wisdom teeth, nearby nerves, and pulp chambers. This lifelike mouth is then attached to a mannequin head for practice purposes. 

The models' material mimics the feel of real human bones and teeth. The researchers even used real patient scans to create distinctive versions of molds. They all differ in difficulty and degree of impaction, just like human mouths. 

Practice makes perfect. Hopefully, dental students all over the world can implement the use of 3D technology.

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