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Preclinic renovations will begin at School of Dentistry

Renovations to one of two preclinics on the ground floor of the School of Dentistry will begin this spring. The Board of Regents authorized the renovations Jan. 16.
A student in a preclinic practices a dental procedure on a mannequin head. Before they treat patients in clinics, first- and second-year dental students develop their dexterity skills in one of two preclinics at the School of Dentistry. (Phot by Jerry Mastey, School of Dentistry)

Renovations to the first preclinic, the west unit, are expected to take about a year. The cost of renovating both the east and west preclinics will total about $7 million. Funds will be raised through gifts from alumni and friends of the School of Dentistry.

In the preclinics, first- and second-year dental students learn to develop their dexterity skills before they begin treating patients in the school's clinics. The renovations will be the first to the preclinic since the dental school was constructed in 1969.

When the renovations are complete, new dental students will find the latest technology playing a major role in their training and education. The new technology will include a raised demonstration platform with a simulation unit, which will enable an instructor to send instructional videos to each student's monitor.

"These units will provide a front seat for every student," Dr. Merle Jaarda, associate professor of dentistry, said during a demonstration of a prototype.

Each unit is a multi-disciplinary workstation equipped with a flat-screen monitor, where instructors can send audio and visual messages using images from 35 mm slides, videotapes, CD-ROMs or the Internet. The simulators will teach new dental students the correct ergonomic positioning to help them develop and refine their dexterity skills. Each unit will have a mannequin head that pivots right and left to simulate the correct positioning of a patient for any type of operating procedure.

Units will be connected to a central suction supply and will have a water spray to provide for preparation of ivorine teeth using water. Lab benches will have a self-contained dry suction system to collect dust and filter out noxious odors. When finished, students can put away their instruments and lock their units behind a pull-down drawer.

A new gift of $1 million, and a $1 million allocation from a previous gift from Dr. Roy Roberts and his wife, Natalie, account for $2 million of the $3.4 million needed to fully fund the renovations to the west preclinic. Upon full funding and completion of west preclinic renovations, work on the east preclinic will begin.

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