A Virtual Reality Simulator Aims to Develop Dentistry

Dental Products ReportDental Products Report August 2022
Volume 56
Issue 8

Promethean Dental Systems’ Simodont Dental Trainer intends to revolutionize dentistry through education.

Promethean Dental Systems is changing dental education with the Simodont Dental Trainer, a haptic device that promotes skill building, allows for unlimited repetition, and simulates end-to-end workflows. The company is developing applications that will benefit everyone from dental students to the most seasoned clinicians. I sat down with Chief Executive Officer Scot Armstrong and MJ Hanlon, DMD, MBA, RDH, executive vice president of North America, to talk about Promethean’s work and vision for the future.

Lou Shuman: Tell me about Simodont, the centerpiece of your dental education services.

SA: The Simodont virtual reality environment allows users to feel as if they are performing dentistry on a real patient and makes possible procedures that can’t be simulated on a manikin. We use Simodont for school preadmissions, simulation labs, licensure exams, remediation, and training for dental organizations and practices. It provides for skill building and objective assessments.

MJH: The first time dentists feel how lifelike it is, it just blows them away. The term haptic refers to the sensation, when you actually feel the reaction of the instrument. For example, when you touch decay with an explorer, you feel a tug-back. The Simodont recreates this same tugging sensation.

SA: With Simodont, we can replicate the operator experience of any handheld dental instrument. The trainee sees a real-time 3D rendering of the procedure while getting crisp and precise tactical feedback from the instrument. For example, users doing crown prep procedures can distinguish between different dental tissues as they interact with handpieces from individual manufacturers when used in combination with specific burs. The Simodont’s capability for many repetitions leads to effective development of muscle memory. To start over, [you] just press a button, like with a video game. Simodont can help students become faster, more proficient and efficient, and it captures analytics at the same time.

LS: How are Simodont units being used?

MJH: The Simodont is filling important roles in dental school preadmissions, licensure, and remediation. It’s perfect for these due to its capacity for repeatability, accuracy, and ability to gather objective data without the repetitive costs of typodonts and manikins. Users can practice in virtual reality as long as they want while seeing the teeth in a realistic way. The repetition and analytical feedback helps to develop advanced hand skills quickly, which will benefit dentists throughout their career. Also, we are expanding the Simodont’s capabilities to teach full hygiene and specialization work.

SA: The built-in virtual tools facilitate accurate and objective feedback. For example, if an exam requires a restoration prep that needs to reach a certain millimeter in depth around the decay, we can focus on and expand the area a hundredfold and set the parameter to that depth. It will automatically tell you if you removed all of the decay.

LS: How will this technology impact dental practices?

SA: This fall we are opening the Performance Institute at Lincoln Memorial University in Knoxville, Tennessee, where users will be able to work with everything from individual procedures to entire dental workflows. The Institute will provide attendees with the opportunity to be involved in end-to-end, full mouth reconstruction without touching a real patient. Understanding the integration and the flow of the dental practice makes dentists more proficient much faster.

Attendees will be able to work virtually through an entire treatment plan using artificial intelligence and digital workflow tools. Besides the Simodont, the workflow incorporates concepts such as treatment design and planning and patient scheduling and billing. MJH: We expect to have a major impact on recruiting and hiring the next generation of dentists, working with DSOs, multi-dentist practices, and manufacturer-sponsored training centers.

SA: The data that we are collecting from all of our virtual applications will be used in novel ways. Simodont data from across the globe will be compiled in a cloud repository that will incorporate data from all the technologies used in a practice, including but not limited to what comes from the Simodont units. As this repository grows, we expect to be able to identify objective performance metrics.

LS: Can you sum up Promethean’s vision?

MJH: Our goal is consistent with the major motivation of every practice and dental professional: to give clinicians the essential tools for constant improvement that can elevate the quality of patient care. We expect that the haptic technology of the Simodont is going to have an even bigger impact as its capabilities expand in the future.

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