Robots to feature in the future of dental students

A dental training robot, named Simroid, which is short for ‘simulator humanoid’, has realistic skin over its metal skeleton, moving eyes and a mouth fitted with replica teeth.

Demonstrated at the 2007 International Robot Exhibition in Tokyo, Simroid said: ‘Ow, that hurt!’ and narrowed her eyes as a dentist drilled on her replica teeth. ‘Now, I’m okay,’ she said as the dentist eased off.

Thanks to a mouth loaded with sensors, she knows when her dentist-in-training makes a mistake. And to express her pain, she grimaces, moves her hands and eyes, as well as speaking. Simroid also exhibits a gag reflex when instruments are inserted too far into her mouth.

‘Our aim is to train dentists to worry about whether patients are comfortable, and not just focus on technical expertise,’ commented Dr Naotake Shibui of the Nippon Dental University in Tokyo, who collaborated with technicians at Kokoro Company to develop the robot. A prototype has been used at the university since September 2007.

Researchers are still working on the functions of the robot, including perfecting a way that lets dental students inject anaesthetic into Simroid’s gums, before focusing on commercial plans.

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