Dental School Names Preclinical Laboratory for Indiana Dental Association; Dedication Is Sept. 17

The advanced technology in the Indiana University School of Dentistry’s new laboratory blurs the line between preclinical and clinical courses in a way that will allow dental students to get a realistic feel for patient care two years before they find themselves sitting across from a real patient in the dental school clinic for the first time.

The completely renovated 39-year-old laboratory, which is actually a series of three laboratories occupying about half of the dental school’s lower level, has been named for the Indiana Dental Association as a salute to Indiana’s dental practitioners, whose generous support helped make the renovations possible. A dedication ceremony for the Indiana Dental Association Preclinical Laboratory will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, September 17, at the dental school on the IUPUI campus, 1121 W. Michigan Street. The event’s host is Dr. John N. Williams Jr., IU’s dean of dentistry.

“When I was researching Indiana as a candidate for IU’s dental deanship, I learned early on that this dental school has benefited from an exceptionally close and longstanding relationship with organized dentistry through its ongoing collaborations with the Indiana Dental Association (IDA),” said Dr. Williams, who was appointed dean in 2010. “For decades the IDA and its membership have helped to uplift and support dental education in Indiana on countless occasions through its Pursuit of Excellence fund. The association took the fund-raising lead during the initial phase of this renovation in 2004, and since then has bolstered the school’s efforts every step of the way. We are extremely pleased to honor the state’s practitioners by naming the new preclinical lab for the IDA.”

The dental laboratory  now stands among the nation’s finest – it is equipped with world-class instrumentation and technology to give IU’s students of dentistry the most comprehensive and contemporary preclinical education possible.

“Clinical preparation now starts on day one,” said dental student Erik J. Zundo after sizing up the patient simulator portion of the lab shortly before it opened to students in August. “In this lab, proper technique and positioning are now in tune with one another, helping students develop finer skills from the very beginning.”

In its new configuration, the preclinical laboratory comprises simulator, bench, and wet laboratories. It houses 106 high-tech manikins, or patient simulators, that are designed to immediately introduce students to the challenges inherent in dental practice – something that models of teeth sitting out in the open on bench-tops cannot do.

“By using simulators, students learn the technical steps for prepping a tooth while simultaneously experiencing the difficulty of visualizing and treating the tooth when it’s situated deep in the mouth and competing for space with the cheeks and palate,” said Dr. George P. Willis, the school’s associate dean for Clinical Affairs. “The students must learn to coordinate their actions, manipulating the mouth mirror and overhead light while holding instruments, and to appropriately position themselves in the operator’s chair. Students begin to develop good clinical habits from the first day they set foot in the simulator lab.”

In addition to the simulators, the preclinical laboratory features digital radiography and CAD CAM units that will allow students to scan, design, and mill glass ceramic dental restorations.

One of the most exciting additions to the laboratory is haptic technology, which will bring interactive virtual sense of touch experiences to the students.

Using a grant from IUPUI’s Center for Teaching and Learning in combination with dental school funds, pediatric dentistry professor Dr. Judith R. Chin is obtaining two software haptic-unit prototypes from BioDigital in New York and the Robotics Institute in Beijing, China. Outfitted in 3D glasses, students will be able, for example, to restore a virtual tooth on a computer screen and receive realistic tactile sensations while doing so.

The IU dental school, which will serve as a testing site for this software, is one of only four U.S. dental schools to be involved with the technology to date.

The IDA Preclinical Laboratory serves as one of the first tangible outcomes of a three-year strategic plan launched by the dental school in March 2011. Included among the plan’s top priorities is the creation of new facilities for dental education, patient care, and research.

“The completion of the Indiana Dental Association Preclinical Laboratory is a substantial achievement that will result in the enhancement of the education of each of our dental and allied dental students – and that ultimately will affect dental practices throughout Indiana and beyond,” said Dean Williams. “The lab represents an important first building block in the facility we foresee for the IU School of Dentistry’s future. We offer a heartfelt thank you to our alumni and other friends of the school for their remarkable generosity as we strive to maintain our place in the top tier of America’s institutions for dental education.”

Sept. 6, 2011
For more information contact Susan Crum