Two Indonesian Lecturers in the US Develop VR Technology for Dentistry

Two Indonesian professors at two top US universities have developed a virtual reality or VR program that can be used to teach dental students. This method can be an alternative learning in the midst of social restrictions due to the corona virus pandemic.

With the oculus device placed on their head and palms, dental students enter a three-dimensional virtual clinic. In the “clinic”, students can use virtual equipment such as scalpels and drills and simulate the installation of dental implants on a virtual patient.

University of Florida lecturer Markus Santoso demonstrates how to use Oculus for a virtual reality program simulating dental implants.  (Courtesy: Markus Santoso)

University of Florida lecturer Markus Santoso demonstrates how to use Oculus for a virtual reality program simulating dental implants. (Courtesy: Markus Santoso)

Simulations like this are very important for aspiring dentists, said Cortino Sukotjo, a lecturer who has taught at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) School of Dentistry for 11 years.

“In medical education there is a practical simulation. They (students) have to practice repeatedly, until they reach the competencies we want,” explained the graduate from Padjadjaran University, Bandung, to Mouab.

Cortino Sukotjo, DDS, PhD, lecturer in the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Illinois, Chicago.  (Courtesy Cortino Sukotjo.)

Cortino Sukotjo, DDS, PhD, lecturer in the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Illinois, Chicago. (Courtesy Cortino Sukotjo.)

Cortino developed the VR program with Markus Santoso, an expert on immersive technology at the University of Florida (UFL) in Gainesville. Starting from an introduction at an event in Indonesia at the end of 2019, the two agreed to develop a program that is useful for dental education.

“Our skills and expertise complement each other. He is strong in dentistry, I am strong in AR/VR,” the graduate of Petra Kristen Surabaya University told Mouab. AR/VR refers to augmented reality (enhanced reality) and virtual reality (virtual reality), part of the immersive technology that is now increasingly being used in the medical field.

However, the application of AR/VR in dental education is still limited, Cortino said. “There are several (universities) that have applied, but they bought the program from outside. If we were one of the first to make our own.”

Involve Students

The process, from finalizing an idea to becoming a prototype, took several months throughout 2020, and involved dozens of UIC and UFL students.

“It’s a problem real-world his from him, I bring it to my class, the class we think, brought it again to him, he tests, research and so on, ”said Markus, who since 2018 has taught at UFL’s Digital Worlds Institute.

Markus Santoso, PhD, lecturer at the College of the Arts at the University of Florida, Gainesville.  (Courtesy: Markus Santoso)

Markus Santoso, PhD, lecturer at the College of the Arts at the University of Florida, Gainesville. (Courtesy: Markus Santoso)

The prototype developed by Markus and his students was then tested by Cortino and several of his students, including Stephanie Schreiber.

“As a student, the implant simulation program helped me learn the order of placing dental implants as if I were in a real clinic as a dentist,” said the woman who just graduated this year.

Cortino added, “They (the faculty) believe this can be used to improve dental education. Although they also believe this only applies as an addition. They still believe that face-to-face meetings are a must,” said the owner of a PhD from the University of California Los Angeles.

Alternative in the Middle of a Pandemic

Although they cannot completely replace the effectiveness of face-to-face learning, these lecturers underlined the potential of AR/VR in dental education, especially in the midst of the corona virus pandemic and social restrictions.

Markus, who holds a PhD from South Korea’s Dongseo University said, “When Covid, lockdown, all students cannot go to the lab, nor can they bring equipment home, because they are big and expensive.”

“With this method they can study on their own at home, there is no time and place limit,” added Cortino, who has taught for several years at Harvard University.

The results of their research entitled “Faculty perceptions of virtual reality as an alternative solution for preclinical skills during the pandemic,” was released in the Journal of Dental Education in November 2020.

Markus Santoso (left) and Cortino Sukotjo (right) were speakers on a webinar on AR/VR technology in dental education held by the American Dental Education Association (ADEA).  (Photo: Mouab)

Markus Santoso (left) and Cortino Sukotjo (right) were speakers on a webinar on AR/VR technology in dental education organized by the American Dental Education Association (ADEA). (Photo: Mouab)

They have also presented it at several seminars in the U.S., including one held by the American Dental Education Association (ADEA).

In addition to dental implant simulations, these two academics have also developed eTypodont, an AR device for simulating dental implants. They are also currently developing several social VR programs, which allow teachers and students to interact in the same virtual clinic, as well as simulate dialogue with patients.

Cortino says it will take 3-5 years to perfect these prototypes. They hope that these efforts will revolutionize dental education in the future. “I’m optimistic to see this will happen” mainstream,” concluded Mark. [vm/em]

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