There are an increasing number of studies about the computer-assisted dental patient simulator DentSim (DenX, Israel), by which dental students can acquire cognitive motor skills in a multimedia environment. However, only a very few studies have been published dealing with efficient ways to use and to manage a computer- assisted dental simulation lab with 40 DentSim units. The current approach and optimization steps of the College of Dentistry at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center were evaluated based on theoretical and practical tests and by questionnaires (partial 5-point Likert scale). Half of the D1 (first-year) students (2004/05) already had experience with computer-assisted learning at their undergraduate college and most of the students even expected to be taught via computer-assisted learning systems (83.5%) at the dental school. 87.3% of the students working with DentSim found the experience to be very interesting or interesting. Before the students carried out the preparation exercises, they were trained in the skills they needed to work with the sophisticated technology, eg, system-specific operation skills (66.6% attained maximal reachable points) and information searching skills (79.5% attained maximal reachable points). The indirect knowledge retention rate / incidental learning rate of the preparation exercises in the sense of computer-assisted problem-oriented learning regarding anatomy, preparation procedures, and cavity design was promising. The wide- ranging number of prepared teeth needed to acquire the necessary skills shows the varied individual learning curves of the students. The acceptance of, and response to, additional elective training time in the computer-assisted simulation lab were very high. Integrating the DentSim technology into the existing curriculum is a way to improve dental education, but it is also a challenge for both teachers and the students. It requires a shift in both curriculum and instructional goals that have to be reevaluated and optimized continuously.
Keywords: computer-assisted learning, computer-assisted simulation, DentSim, virtual reality simulator system, problem-oriented learning, digital tutor function