One of the most disconcerting, and momentarily painful, moments involved in a visit to the dentist is the injection of local anaesthetic into the gums.
Now scientists at the University of Newcastle in Australia have come up with a method that they hope will make the experience less traumatic, by ensuring that the next generation of oral health professionals are experts at using syringes before they even start treating real people.
A team led by lecturer Denise Higgins collaborated with the university’s IT department to design a virtual dental clinic, in which student dentists are tested on their ability to administer anaesthetic with utmost precision.
“From listening to student feedback over the years, I knew they felt they were missing something between the theory and practising on their peers and patients,” Higgins said.
“Administering anaesthetic needles is an incredibly intricate process, and not something many feel confident doing without extensive practice. Ultimately, we want our patients to feel safe, comfortable and at-ease, which is why it’s crucial to ensure our students feel confident entering the patient clinic.”
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