Learning dentistry with state-of-the-art instruction and technologies

The Faculty of Dentistry at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, Canada, recently upgraded their dental chairs and opened a new simulation laboratory with Planmeca solutions. With state-of-the-art equipment, UBC Dentistry ensures their students will continue to receive the best possible dental education experience over the next decade. The previous dental chairs, also manufactured by Planmeca, were used for almost twenty years, serving as a testament to the reliability, exceptional quality, and timeless design of Planmeca products.

Learning dentistry with state-of-the-art instruction and technologies

Article Jul 14, 2023

The University of British Columbia (UBC) is a highly ranked educational institution not only in Canada but also in North America and globally. The Faculty of Dentistry at UBC has established a leading position in dental education and hosts around 500 students across their degree and post-graduate programmes. These programmes include undergraduate programmes for the degree of Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) and in Dental Hygiene, clinical specialty programmes as well as various post-graduate programmes.

Every year, the UBC Faculty of Dentistry receives 550–650 applications for the DMD programme, among which 65 applicants are accepted. Over the next two years, the number of available seats will be raised to 70 to respond to the growing demand for dental education. In 2019, a DMD programme was also introduced for international students, allowing students from abroad to apply for dentistry training at UBC. UBC Dentistry also has international students in their specialty training as well as in their PhD and Master studies.

The dental education at UBC revolves around the student as a learner. According to Dr Mary MacDougall, Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Dentistry, this is accomplished by offering the students the necessary means for the training.

“At the university, we have the student in mind as learner. We want to facilitate learning in a safe environment with state-of-the-art instruction and technologies,” she says. By utilising state-of-the-art equipment in education, the students learn to make the most of the latest digital dental technologies right from the start.

“We like to train competent general dentists that are also critical thinkers. This way, as new technologies and methodologies are applied to dentistry, our students will be able to assess those and incorporate them in their private practices,” Dr MacDougall explains.

According to Dr MacDougall, the same also applies to faculty members, meaning that they and the facilities must be well equipped for the ongoing technological change in dentistry to remain relevant in the future, too.

Selecting Planmeca for functionality, durability and timeless design

In 2022, the UBC Faculty of Dentistry upgraded the 144 dental care units in their Nobel Biocare Oral Health Centre (OHC) dental clinic and opened a new simulation laboratory. According to Dr MacDougall, the main goals for these projects were to enhance the learning environment for the students, facilitate patient care and ensure the students will continue to receive the best possible educational experience over the next decade.

The previous positive experiences with Planmeca equipment were one of the main reasons why UBC selected Planmeca as the supplier for both of these projects. Planmeca had also delivered the previous dental chairs in 2005, which had been in constant use for almost 20 years – and still going strong before the upgrade.

“The durability of the products and the service by Planmeca, which we had witnessed first hand, was essential for us and helped us make the decision. Given the prior reliability and generally low maintenance needs of Planmeca dental units, Planmeca was also very competitive from the standpoint of pricing and the product’s capabilities. With regards to usability, they are quite intuitive,” Dr MacDougall says.

On an annual basis, over 40,000 patients are taken care of in the OHC, which means the equipment is in high use throughout the year. Therefore, for an academic institution such as UBC, it was important to find a solution that is not only durable but also looks great year after year, since the resources for continuously upgrading the facilities are often limited. Planmeca products can be easily updated and retrofitted with new features instead of replacing them, which also make Planmeca units a sustainable choice for dental schools.

“I think one of the remarkable things about Planmeca is the aesthetics and timeless design of the products. It is really incredible how modern the equipment looks when you walk into our clinic. Even prior to the upgrades, people still remarked how modern and well maintained our clinic looked. I think that was very much part of Planmeca design and aesthetics,” Dr MacDougall says.

The Nobel Biocare Oral Health Centre has 144 Planmeca Compact™ i Classic units.

High-tech equipment contributes to academic success

In addition to upgrading the OHC with Planmeca Compact™ i Classic dental units, UBC opened the 123Dentist Simulation Laboratory with Planmeca Compact™ iSim simulation units in September 2022. The laboratory layout was planned together with Planmeca to fit the simulation laboratory in the existing premises and to ensure efficiency and smooth simulation workflows in the facility.

“We had limited space available for the simulation laboratory. Therefore, the layout design was very critical to facilitate student learning and allow instructor access throughout the learning process,” Dr MacDougall tells.

“Since Planmeca had vast experience in designing other simulation facilities, they were able to help us with their knowledge. They made very valuable suggestions on the floor plan as well as format. Similar to dental units, the simulation equipment is aesthetically very modern and pleasing, so the 123Dentist Simulation Laboratory is truly a showcase for us here at the university,” Dr MacDougall continues.

The feedback from the students has also been nothing but positive.

“In fact, our fourth-year students lament that they did not have access to the facility during their training. Furthermore, we have engaged the new facilities in a number of continuing dental education programmes as well. The students are thrilled with the facility,” Dr MacDougall tells.

According to Dr MacDougall, the new facilities with Planmeca products have also contributed to students choosing UBC. As students are interviewed for admission to UBC Dentistry, they are presented with videos and photographs highlighting the facilities, and the new simulation laboratory is one of those facilities being highlighted.

“The new facility is quite impressive. We have heard from our students that having such high-tech equipment to support their learning is one of the features why they have chosen UBC,” Dr MacDougall tells.

“It has been an absolute pleasure utilising the new equipment and facilities, and our academic programme this year has been very successful. We appreciate the due diligence by the entire Planmeca team in the initial planning and design phase because I think that has led to the success we have had this academic year.”

The 123Dentist Simulation Laboratory at UBC Dentistry has 73 Planmeca Compact™ iSim simulation units.

Shaping dental education with a four-pillar strategy

The Faculty of Dentistry at UBC has defined their strategy around four core areas – people, education, research, and engagement. The faculty aims to become a trailblazer in dentistry through providing problem- and case-based dental education as well as having an intense and innovative research programme, which regularly contributes to the scientific literature in many fields across oral health.

“We are constantly expanding our research into new areas. In fact, we are about to start a new research centre that focuses on genetic disorders affecting the craniofacial complex and dentition. Our hope is to collaborate globally in this focus area to treat patients with rare craniofacial oral and dental disorders by implementing personalised protocols,” Dr MacDougall highlights.

To engage students in research from early on, the undergraduates have the chance to participate in research during the summer. The UBC Faculty of Dentistry has a special summer research programme, in which the students get paid for participating in faculty research projects, which can be basic scientific, translational, or clinical research. Many students also continue to Master or PhD programmes after they have completed their initial clinical programmes.

In the past few years, the university has also laid a special focus on enhancing the enrolment of indigenous people in the UBC dentistry programmes – and thus responded to the call for action by Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Indeed, of the 65 seats available for DMD students each year, three are dedicated for indigenous students. Additionally, the dental hygiene programme has two dedicated seats for indigenous students. These seats were introduced for the DMD programme in 2020 to engage more indigenous students in oral health care professions and provide professional careers in dental care for interested students.

“Before introducing the dedicated seats, we had only had three indigenous graduates in our DMD programme in the history of UBC Dentistry. Currently, we have eight indigenous students in our programmes, and we are extremely proud of being able to provide professional careers in oral health for interested students,” Dr MacDougall tells.

Dr Mary MacDougall is the Dean of UBC Dentistry.

Commitment to excellence

Dr Mary MacDougall was appointed Dean of the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of British Columbia in 2017. Her term is coming to an end soon, as she will step down as dean in August. However, the new simulation laboratory and upgraded OHC dental clinic will continue to remind dentistry students at UBC of her term for the next 10–12 years at least.

“We appreciate the engineering and innovation that Planmeca has brought to dental products, especially those for dental education. The reliability and dedication of the Planmeca team and their commitment to excellence are features that have established our long-term relationship and collaboration.”

As far as the partnership with Planmeca goes, Dr MacDougall is pleased how professionally the entire project was handled from planning to implementation and equipment deliveries.

“I think one of our major positive experiences with Planmeca is the rigorous pre-design phase, project planning and then the execution of the installation itself. The Planmeca team was very proactive, which is really important in order to accommodate the demands of an academic institution. And, even though Planmeca products were shipped from Finland, everything arrived on time. I actually wish everyone was as efficient as the Planmeca team since we always have very limited time frames to do renovations around our academic programmes. It was a real pleasure working with Planmeca,” Dr MacDougall continues.

“The facility looks beautiful and we now have a dedicated Planmeca clinical dispensary at the heart of our clinic, where our students pick up all their materials and instrumentation. This way, they are reminded daily of the partnership and the contribution of Planmeca,” she concludes.

Planmeca products at the University of British Columbia

– 144 Planmeca Compact™ i Classic dental units with Planmeca Solanna® operating lights
– 73 Planmeca Compact™ iSim simulation units
Planmeca Romexis® software

Planmeca Compact i Classic
Planmeca Solanna
Planmeca Compact iSim

Text: Mari Suominen
Images: Courtesy of the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of British Columbia

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