Virtual reality isn’t just for gamers; it’s also for dentists like Dr. Tim Bitner, who started changing how his colleagues learn as a student at the University of Utah.
With so many materials used during learning, dentistry comes at a high cost. After being exposed to the idea of training using VR technology with Dr. Mark Durham, Dr. Bitner worked to create software that allows students to practice dentistry in a 3D, virtual setting.
“There’s just so much material that you have to go through to learn how to be a dentist,” Dr. Bitner said. “There’s no way you’re going to go practice on real people in the first year that you’re in dental school, so you have to start somewhere and learn on something.”
After the initial cost of VR hardware, there are no other costs that rival the costs of traditional learning. Additionally, Dr. Bitner said the easily accessible repetition in the virtual space is a boon for students before they begin practicing on patients. With virtual training spaces, there’s even potential for learning in places where dental school and materials might be hard to come by.
Now in orthodontic school, Dr. Bitner has passed on the torch of developing VR dentistry. However, because of the excitement younger students have shown, Dr. Bitner says it was easy for him to move on, especially because of Dr. Durham’s mentorship.
“Dr. Durham is a phenomenal mentor. He just has made me feel appreciated and like what I was doing was worth it throughout my education,” Dr. Bitner said. “The relationship that we formed over the years is really important to me. I definitely attribute a lot to who I am now and where I was able to get to because of the opportunities that he gave to me.”
Find this article and a lot more in the 2021 “Student Innovation @ the U” report. The publication is presented by the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute to celebrate student innovators, change-makers, and entrepreneurs.