UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 8 | June
Dental Students Invent Cyber Tooth Training
Pulling teeth out of the textbook gives students new perspective.
By Hilary Thomson
An interactive 3-D teaching tool built by Faculty of Dentistry
undergraduate students is about to revolutionize how students learn
the anatomy of teeth by taking dental education out of the classroom
and into cyberspace.
Until now, students have relied on lectures, slides and textbook
drawings to learn about tooth structure.
But all that is changing with the Virtual Tooth Reality project,
believed to be the only program of its kind in North America, which
allows students to learn about shapes and structures of teeth using
3-D images of real teeth that can be rotated on-screen to be viewed
from a variety of angles. Hot links on specific areas lead students
to text references.
UBC dental students first used the interactive resource in September
2001. Response was overwhelmingly positive and the faculty plans
to market the program to other universities.
"The beauty of this resource is that students can learn about
complex tooth anatomy at their own pace and initiative both at school
and at home," says Babak Chehroudi, a clinical assistant professor
of Oral, Biological and Medical Sciences. "Instructors can
take students to a computer bay in the clinic to view images and
prepare for a procedure. It's a student-centered tool that complements
our problem-based learning format."
Students Jordan Catherall and Peter Luu started working on the
project last summer after their first year in Dentistry and are
making further improvements this summer.
The first challenge was finding 28 perfect adult human teeth. Wisdom
teeth are variable in structure so were not included in the project.
Artificial teeth are often used for teaching, however, they differ
in shape and colouring from natural teeth. A scavenger hunt for
teeth took them to dentists' offices and teaching and research labs.
Using a motorized rig, a turntable stand to hold the tooth and
a digital camera, the students took 360 pictures - one picture for
every 10 degrees of rotation - of each tooth. They highlighted key
areas using partial cross-sections and dyes.
"Getting set up and managing the details of the project were
tough," says Catherall. "But it was a great chance for
me to learn more about anatomy and to help others learn, too."
Computer Science student Colin Ng wrote software that allowed the
rig and computer systems to talk to each other.
"It's been amazing to see the excitement and interest in this
project from other dental schools," says Luu.
He and Catherall earned second place in a research poster competition
at a recent meeting of the American Dental Education Association
(ADEA). Abstracts on the project have also been published in the
Journal of Dental Education.
"We were overwhelmed by the interest at the ADEA meeting -
this program has so much potential for both dental and medical schools,
" says Chehroudi.
This summer the students will develop the site to include endodontic
images that show crowns, roots, internal pulp and surrounding tissues
as well as descriptions of restorative procedures.
They say they have been 'negotiating with the Tooth Fairy' to
secure children's teeth to add images of primary teeth to the program.
They will also add more text hyperlinks and plan to create a streaming
video and animated movies that will show whole procedures on-line.
Support for this project came from UBC's Teaching and Learning
Enhancement Fund and from faculty members Prof. Don Brunette, Asst.
Prof. Jeff Coil, Assoc. Prof. Lance Rucker with photography support
provided by Bruce McCaughey.