Marcus Pham

Marcus Pham

Brief

When we visit the dentist, we expect to receive high quality, long lasting treatment. The main determining factor of the quality of our treatment boils down to the skill of the practitioner. In particular, it is the level of fine-motor skills of our dental practitioner, the fundamental skill that is required in all procedures in dentistry.

The dental practitioner must be able to achieve precision to ensure that the restorative material bonds correctly to the tooth. Inaccurate tooth preparation negatively impact the longevity and quality of restorative work. As such, a significant component of dental training is dedicated to acquiring these manual skills in order to consistently achieve ideal tooth preparations. The current method relies on students slaving away practising on model teeth for hours a day for about 2 years. Additionally, the learning process is inefficient and crude, where the only feedback obtained by students is through the subjective feedback of supervisors provided after the student has completed their work.

Additionally, comparative data of both dental students and even specialist dentists have suggested that the ideal level of tooth preparation is still seldom achieved. This is due to limitations in the feedback available to the dental practitioner.

Achieving a good preparation is currently limited to the dental operator by both access and vision, as the only gauge of the angle of the drill is by eye. The dental operator often cannot have direct line of sight to areas of the mouth, and will have to do this preparation by indirect vision, via the mouth mirror, causing added difficulty and reducing the volume of the oral cavity, additionally impairing visual sight.

My research with DentalAR incorporates Augmented Reality into dentistry to decrease the time taken by students to acquire fundamental fine-motor skills as well as significantly improving upon the level of quality of their work. This is achieved by providing students with real-time feedback and all relevant information without interrupting their work-flow.

There are multiple flow-on effects, such as higher quality dental students, more patients receiving affordable dental work, students reaching clinic-ready level faster allowing them to treat live patients more effectively at the dental school clinic.

Additionally, the utilisation of my research is not just limited to the training of dental students. The research extends to the general dental practitioner. My research provides dentists with a tool to more precisely perform dental work, resulting in better and longer-lasting dental work. Being able quickly to access information without interrupting the procedure allows for faster dental visits, which is a win for everyone!

Possibilities

The potential impact of this research is phenomenal. The ability to provide additional information to a user whilst the user is still able to operate in their current reality, allows for massive improvements in performance, speed and accuracy.

Hence, there are applications for the research in many other fields, such as medicine, and any field where precision and/or critical information is needed.

I feel augmented reality is where the future is headed and the possibilities for its use are endless!

About Me

I started at UWA straight out of high school in 2009, where I began a double undergraduate degree in Bachelor of Electrical and Electronic Engineering and Bachelor of Computer and Mathematical Sciences.

Nearing the end of my degree, I took up my thesis project with Prof. Thomas Braunl in the UWA Renewable Energy Vehicle (REV) Project, working on the converted Lotus Elise and the Hyundai Getz. I learned about electric vehicles and battery management and was appointed REV Student Manager working with robotics and electric vehicles.

Following this, I began teaching as a lab demonstrator in Electrical Engineering.

Additionally, this opened up the path to meet with Prof. Paul Ichim to work on a project to improve the outcomes of dental students.

I immediately saw the commercial potential of the product to enhance efficiency and patient experience in dentistry, and hence the journey began. I was encouraged by UWA’s Innovation Quarter to join Start Something, a program to assist researchers in commercialising their work.

We soon moved from Start Something onto the CSIRO ON Prime program, validating research and exploring the possibilities for commercialisation and then were selected as one of 10 innovations in Australia to be included in CSIRO’s ON Accelerate program.

I have hopes of starting a PhD next year and continuing this research further!

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