Dental Tribune Europe

Researchers highlight importance of innovative learning models in implant dentistry

By Dental Tribune International
October 25, 2019

LISBON, Portugal: New implant treatment techniques are constantly being developed as a result of technological progress, and this has created a need to update education in implant dentistry. Recently, researchers from Portugal, the UK and the US published a paper on trends in implant dentistry education which summarises the most effective training methods for this dental field. The paper discusses non-traditional methods and encourages dentists to seek professional education after their university training has ended.

In a literature review, works from the fields of active learning, blended learning, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, haptics and mixed reality were reviewed and the experiences and opinions of expert authors were considered.

The researchers stated: “One challenge in implant dentistry education is that professional learners who wish to learn are still, too often, taught in traditional ways of knowledge sharing rather than involving students directly in the application of knowledge to solve, or better still prevent, clinical problems.”

In their paper, the research team differentiated between two main learning models: action learning and blended learning. First, they considered action learning, which is a learning approach where people are committed to solving real-life problems through action. Nowadays, traditional theoretical lectures are being replaced by lectures with awe-inspiring images, dynamic videos and interactive exercises. These may include on-site learning, which involves applications to engage students, such as quizzes or anonymous question sessions, such as those held during international congresses. These sessions are especially beneficial for participants who would usually be too shy to ask questions.

In addition, online interactive learning in small working groups via social media was recommended by the review. This method allows dentists the opportunity to share their patient cases and the challenges and problems that they face in their daily practice. Webinars are also considered to be a good learning method, owing to their flexibility of location and their interactive aspects, such as question and answer sessions.

The paper also highlights that, besides online classes, hands-on exercises are an essential tool in implant dentistry training. For this purpose, standardised plastic models which mimic patients’ real situations are a good way of simulating implant placement. Digital planning, customised 3D-printed models, animal and human cadaver models, and dynamic navigation systems allow surgeons to practise in an interactive way, similar to real-life situations.

Different studies have proved that hands-on experiments promote students’ learning and build on their intrinsic motivation. A survey conducted among 372 undergraduate students who experienced both passive and active learning showed that active instruction had more positive effects on their psychological and behavioural outcomes.

However, this method also has its limitations. Creating action learning experiences is costly, as usually more resources are needed. These resources may be in the form of facilitators, equipment and space, and these are not needed in the case of a single instructor giving a lecture in a lecture hall. In an action learning environment where participants are taking on new processes, there can be a sense of discomfort owing to unfamiliarity. Not all learners are comfortable revealing what they do not know to other participants, who may be strangers.

Secondly, the paper deals with blended learning, which is a term open to discussion. However, according to the authors, it is generally agreed that blended learning combines online and face-to-face interaction. Even though nowadays the obstacles of different time zones and geographical location can be overcome by technology, the implementation of blended learning programmes within mainstream dental implant education has been slow. According to numerous studies, this learning method provides superior outcomes when compared with more traditional teaching methods.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning (ML) are named as important technological contributions to blended learning, as they incorporate significant advances in computing power. Furthermore, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are considered innovative advances in implant dentistry education, since the former allows the user to feel as though he or she is connected to an enhanced environment. The latter brings together a combination of multiple technologies, allowing users to interact with virtual entities in real time.

Like action learning, blended learning has both advantages and disadvantages. Cost-savings and a shortage of teachers and supporting staff are often cited as reasons for implementing the use of technology in dental education. However, it is also claimed that the construction of sufficiently “real” environments requires expensive and sometimes technically challenging interface design. Another issue and potentially important limitation concerns data and user privacy.

“Education in implant dentistry will evolve quickly over the next decade as technologies already being used in other industries are incorporated into new and innovative learning models. […] Going forward, instead of traditional models of education being used to achieve all educational objectives, now traditional formats that will be ineffective with today’s learner will be replaced, where appropriate, with online education, AR, ML, VR, and MR [mixed reality],” stated the authors.

The study, titled “Innovative trends in implant dentistry training and education: A narrative review”, was published in the October 2019 issue of the Journal of Clinical Medicine.

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