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Face-lift brings a smile for phantom heads

The best dental training facilities in the country await students starting a new academic year at the school of dentistry. They will be learning hands-on clinical practice in a transformed ‘phantom heads’ room, with state-of-the-art dental and teaching equipment.

Toothy phantoms – the new simulators (left) and (below) Dr Brian Nattress oversees a student's work

The name might conjure images of dusty dungeons and headless ghosts, but the reality is impressively high-tech. Thirty patient simulators – each with a ‘phantom head’ – are equipped with all the latest dentistry tools, and screens where students see a magnified image of the teeth they’re working on.

“We’re the only dental school in the UK to have individual simulators equipped to such a high level, creating conditions as close as possible to a real dental clinic,” explained senior lecturer Dr Brian Nattress. “Dentists can work with dental nurses on the same simulator, so students learn how to function as a team. The new facilities will make the transition to working with real patients much smoother, as students are already learning good clinical practice in proper clinical conditions.”

The £600,000 HEFCE-funded refurbishment has brought many advantages for students. In the past, they would gather round to watch a tutor demonstrate a technique, making intricate procedures difficult to follow. With the new equipment, a close-up of the demonstration appears on screens in front of each student. Operations taking place in the dental hospital can also be transmitted live for students to watch in specially created seminar rooms.

The new phantom heads will be used also to train dental hygienists and dental therapists and are ideal for postgraduate courses, providing specialist training for qualified dentists.

“The government is currently looking at how dentistry should be delivered within the NHS and this may open up many opportunities for expansion within dentistry and dental education,” said dean of the school Professor William Hume. “We are also working with the local primary care trusts on plans to reorganise and improve dental services within the city.”

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