NYU Researchers Receive Grant to Study VR-Based Training for Dental Surgery

By Elizabeth McAlpin and Keith Allison | March 10, 2022

VR for Surgery: Haptic Feedback for Local Anesthesia Training

Dr. Marci Levine, Clinical Assistant Professor at NYU College of Dentistry, and Dr. Mohamad Eid, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering at NYU Abu Dhabi, were recently awarded the 2022-23 Faculty Fellowship from 19 Washington Square North—NYU Abu Dhabi's home in New York—to support the project, "Haptic Feedback for Local Anesthesia Training." The grant was written in collaboration with Dr. Elizabeth McAlpin (Director of Research and Outcomes Assessment, NYU IT) and Cristián Opazo (Director of Educational Technology, NYU College of Dentistry).

This research project seeks to develop and evaluate haptic feedback in a virtual reality (VR) local anesthesia training simulation, specifically for the inferior alveolar nerve block (IANB). This VR-based training program, developed by NYU Dentistry in collaboration with NYU IT during the pandemic, is currently in use by all second-year students at the College of Dentistry as part of their preclinical training. Haptic feedback is the simulation of the sense of touch—think video game controllers that vibrate at certain points of the game, or VR gloves that create points of pressure to recreate the feel of holding tools or objects in VR.

In addition to an immersive visual experience, this collaboration between the NYU College of Dentistry and NYU Abu Dhabi will enable dental students to experience the tactile sensation of inserting a real needle in a patient by using a haptic interface designed specifically for this purpose. A 3D printed Carpule syringe will be designed and attached to the Geomagic haptic interface to provide a realistic grip experience in addition to providing force feedback during the anesthesia procedure.

Haptic data, such as position, orientation, force, speed, etc., will be recorded to provide a quantitative measure of the quality of performance. The ability of haptic feedback to improve learning outcomes will be evaluated using an experimental study with dental professors and students from NYU’s College of Dentistry. The results from the quantitative evaluation will be cross-validated using subjective feedback from dental professors and students.