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Last Updated: Monday, 14 March, 2005, 20:09 GMT
Machines training future dentists
Student working on the new dental simulator
The trainee dentist's work is stored on the computer
The latest technology is being used to train a new generation of dentists in Cardiff.

The city's University Dental Hospital is the first in the UK to invest in eight dental simulators, costing 500,000.

The machines allow students to watch their work onscreen as they practise procedures, and store information about their performance.

There is a shortage of NHS dentists in many areas of Wales.

The new equipment, which uses the latest in optic, imaging and simulation technologies, allows more dental students to be trained at the same time.

Users are given the case history of a 'virtual' computer-generated patient. As they carry out procedures, they have on-screen visual tracking, feedback and evaluation of their performance.

We are leading the way in dental training
Professor Malcolm Jones

All the information is stored on the computer, which allows the instructor to view the quality of the student's entire preparation process and not simply the end result.

The system is already used in colleges from Hong Kong to the USA and encourages self-training and the development of the 'fine-hand' co-ordination skills needed in dentistry.

The simulator equipment was officially launched by Cardiff North MP Julie Morgan on Monday.

Sixty five dentists are trained in Cardiff every year and Professor Malcolm Jones, general manager of the dental hospital and dean of the dental school, said they have been delighted by the extra capacity and flexibility the simulators provide.

"We are leading the way in dental training and can teach up to 25% of the current student intake in pairs at any one time, allowing great scope to expand out undergraduate teaching".

Despite efforts by the Welsh Assembly Government to attract NHS dentists, there is still a serious shortage with many patients, particularly in rural areas, forced to travel miles for subsidised treatment.


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