OHSU Dental Simulation Clinic Offers One of the Most High-Tech Learning Experiences in the Nation

10/28/02    Portland, Ore.

Newly opened patient simulation and technique clinics prepare students better for real patients

The class of second-year students each peered into the gaping mouths of their individual practice mannequin. They were working in the Oregon Health & Science University School of Dentistry's just-opened multimedia, Patient Simulation Clinic. It sits next door to the new Technique Clinic.

The professor stood behind a space-age-type command module. Some of the equipment at the instructor station include: two15-inch LCD color flat monitors; a 12-inch diagonal color LCD touch panel controller; a six-inch diagonal color LCD wireless remote controller; one remote control master computer; one intra-oral camera with docking station; two VCRs; and two slide-to-video transfer units. In short, it's highly equipped and capable of doing almost anything a professor would want it to do.

The adjacent Technique Clinic is similar, with monitors and a command module, but does not have mannequins. It's used to teach different dental techniques.

The two state-of-the-art clinics are considered the newest, most high-tech, most equipped, best functioning, and according to students and faculty, "the most amazing" such dental simulation clinics in the country.

"This is awesome. It's really advanced. The best thing is the monitors for each student, so we can each see what's going on. It's a great instructional tool. I'm just excited to be here. I think we're going to be very well-prepared by the time we work with real patients," said Bret Woodward, 34, Hillsboro, a second-year dental student.

Being better prepared is important for these students and even more important for their patients. The OHSU School of Dentistry Patient Clinic sees 12,000 patients who make a total of 65,077 visits to the patient clinic a year. Third- and fourth-year students participate in the care of patients.

During a recent class, the students were perched on their swivel stools. Their hands worked in their mannequins' mouths. The half torsos of the mannequins were stretched out before them. The mannequins, or patient simulators, are a lot like real patients. They have a head with a toothy jaw that opens and closes. The torso and head can be turned to multiple positions. The skin is pink plastic that can be stretched as the students work on the teeth. The students have high-speed dental equipment, such as drills, with burs, which are the cutting portion of the drills, suction devises, water syringes and lights as they work on their plastic patients. About the only difference between the mannequin and a real patient in a dentist's office is that the mannequin can't talk back.

The students wear scrubs, surgical gloves and protective eye gear with magnifying lenses attached. The zinging sound of the drills fills the brightly lit, room. Each student station is equipped with a flat screen color monitor that projects images constructed by the professor to illustrate the most important aspects of the lesson as it progresses.

Besides better preparing students for patient care, Jack Clinton, D.M.D., associate dean for clinical affairs in the OHSU School of Dentistry, said that these two new teaching clinics will help attract even more top students and faculty. Currently the entering grade point average for dental students at OHSU is one of the highest in the country.

"As good as we were, we're going to be even better now," he said.

The completion of the clinic was a collaborative effort among many at the School of Dentistry as well as many others throughout OHSU, and vendor teams. Planning began more than a year ago Construction began after school ended in June 2002 and was ready for the first students in September. A-dec, Inc., a manufacturer of dental equipment, and its owners, Joan and Ken Austin of Newberg, Ore., took a lead roll in the process of development, design and installation. A portion of the equipment in the clinic was made possible by an in-kind donation from A-dec and the Austins. The Austins are longtime supporters of the School of Dentistry and the dental profession.