Journal of Surgical Simulation 2017; 4: 29 - 34

Published: 16 August 2017


Original article

Developing haptic caries simulation for dental education

Cecilie Osnes and Andrew Keeling
Corresponding author: Cecilie Osnes, School of Dentistry, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9LU, UK. Email:


Background: Treating tooth decay (caries), an essential skill for dental students to learn, relies largely on tactile investigation. Most dental schools use plastic or extracted teeth to teach caries removal and cavity design. However, plastic teeth cannot replicate the ‘feel’ of caries, limiting the available practice exercises to manual dexterity rather than cavity design guided by pathology. Virtual haptic simulation is emerging as a viable adjunct to traditional methods, with potential to simulate dental tissues and pathology. Aim: To develop virtual haptic caries simulations, enabling students to practice the tactile and cognitive aspects of caries removal and cavity design in a controlled environment on the Moog Simodont Dental Trainer. Methods: Custom software was written to enable the creation of blocks containing unique variations of caries. Each block was produced with segment data to enable automatic marking of students’ attempts. This caries block generation process enabled the creation of a large library of disparate carious models calling for a unique solution for each case. Results: A library of caries blocks was built. The blocks hold varying shape, depth and amount of caries within a simulated tooth consisting of enamel, dentine and pulp tissue. The design of the block encouraged the user to follow correct clinical protocols to treat the lesion, while preserving the maximum amount of healthy tissue. Conclusions: We present a novel haptic caries simulation encouraging correct clinical technique based on tactile sensation and realistic disease patterns. The exercises provide a safe environment for novice dental students to practice caries removal.


dentistry; education; haptic simulation; virtual; cariology; caries removal