Doctor watches student
Dr. Richard Callan (right) oversees DCG student Ian Davis' practice on the Moog Simodont Dental Trainer.

On the Horizon: Confidence Boost

Transcripts, test scores, interviews and references: These are among the data that can provide a wealth of information when assessing Dental College of Georgia student applicants. But one area is harder to assess: psychomotor ability.

“Psychomotor ability involves physical movement related to a conscious cognitive process,” says Dr. Richard Callan, chair of the Department of General Dentistry. “It can be a determining factor in so many things, such as how well one plays a sport or an instrument. For a dentist, psychomotor ability is one of the most important factors of all. However, it is hard at the onset to assess the hand skills of our applicants.”

But the assessment has potentially become much easier.

The DCG recently obtained a Moog Simodont Dental Trainer, which uses haptic technology (interaction involving touch) to provide high-fidelity simulation and training in the use of a dental handpiece. “This technology can be used to help dental students develop the hand skills necessary to perform delicate procedures and to learn and refine specific dental techniques,” Callan says.

“The technology closely simulates many aspects of the process, such as the texture of the tooth, the pressure needed to penetrate its various layers and the use of a mirror or other aids to see teeth from various angles.”

Dr. Callan and his colleagues have conducted numerous research projects to help establish the most effective application of this technology and determine its optimal potential. He recently invited members of the University of Georgia and Augusta University’s Pre-Dental Societies to practice on the simulator, beginning with very basic skill assessment such as removing the red composite material in the center of a rectangular shape without penetrating the green border. “It’s kind of like the game, ‘Operation,’ only using a dental handpiece,” Callan says.

Using deliberate practice, these prospective dental students were able to markedly increase their performance over a relatively short period of time. “Deliberate practice is a key component to our students learning the necessary skills to become a dentist, and this technology is ideally suited for that purpose,” says Callan.

Additional studies with freshman dental students are underway in hopes of establishing a correlation between improvement on the MOOG Simulator and improvement in pre-clinical technique courses. Says Callan, “It is hoped that success on the simulator can help boost the confidence of our students, a confidence that can sustain them as they matriculate through the demanding DCG curriculum.

“I believe haptic simulation will become an integral part of dental education, as well as that of many other professions requiring acute psychomotor ability,” he says. “It may even evolve into a screening tool for those wishing to enter the profession.”

For more information about this technology, visit

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