Evaluation of a Vibrotactile Simulator for Dental Caries Detection

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Abstract

Introduction

Developed to educate dental students in caries detection, the VerroTeach simulator allows dental faculty to share, record, and replay the tactile vibrations felt through a dental hand instrument. We assessed this simulation approach by asking experienced dental educators to evaluate the system’s real-time and video playback modes.

Methods

VerroTeach uses an accelerometer to sense instrument vibrations and a voice coil actuator to reproduce these vibrations on another tool. Seventeen dental faculty participated in the study, first experiencing real-time mode by feeling vibrations while the experimenter touched extracted teeth. The subject then experienced vibrotactile playback of 5 prerecorded caries detection tasks and 1 prerecorded caries extraction procedure, making 10 total caries judgments and repeatedly rating the system’s perceptual accuracy.

Results

Dental educators rated caries detection as significantly more difficult for students than experienced dentists (P < 0.0001), and they rated tactile feedback as a highly important source of information for this judgment. Subjects highly rated the realism of both real-time mode and playback mode. Experienced dentists performed well on the simulator, answering most questions correctly. Interestingly, nonpracticing dentists performed significantly worse than practicing dentists on the caries judgment questions (P = 0.003). Finally, subjects strongly recommended the system for training dental students.

Conclusions

These positive results indicate that sharing, recording, and replaying instrument vibrations may be beneficial for teaching caries detection to dental students. Further research is planned to improve tactile feedback quality, integrate VerroTeach into the preclinical curriculum, and explore other possible applications for this approach to clinical simulation.

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