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March 23, 2004

New technology gives U-M dental students front row seats
Dr. David Traynor (seated) and Dr. Merle Jaarda showcase some of the new features of this state-of-the-art workstation in one of two School of Dentistry preclinics. Traynor, a preclinical instructor, demonstrates a procedure on a mannequin head dental students will use. On the monitor in the background is an image instructors will be able to send to each dental student showing, in this case, how the oral cavity should appear after the procedure is finished. (Photo by Keary Campbell)

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Students at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry soon will be using the latest technology that will bring clinical dental education directly to their desktops.

A $2 million commitment from a 1932 U-M School of Dentistry graduate helped totally renovate dentistry's 3,300-square-foot west preclinic, recently renamed the Dr. Roy H. Roberts Preclinical Laboratory, where 110 new workstations have been installed for use by first- and second-year dental students.

One of the major features in each workstation is a television monitor that allows students to watch instructors demonstrate various dental procedures using an array of resources—computers (desktop or laptop), the Internet or World Wide Web, DVDs, 35 mm slides, videotapes, an intraoral camera and a device resembling a flatbed scanner.

Small television cameras can televise live demonstrations of instructors using mannequin heads to illustrate procedures that range from preparing teeth for restorations to crown preparations.

"Each student now has a front row seat to observe these procedures," said Dr. Merle Jaarda, a preclinical instructor and an associate professor of dentistry. Previously, students gathered around an instructor to observe a dental procedure.

Beneath each student's desktop, in a cabinet on the lower left hand side of each workstation, is a mannequin head attached to a platform. When the student pulls out the mannequin head, it can pivot right and left to simulate a patient's position for any type of dental procedure. The equipment helps dental students learn correct ergonomic positioning to maximize their dexterity skills.

A gift of $1 million from Roberts and his wife, Natalie, and a $1 million allocation from a previous gift by the Roberts, helped launch the renovations. Roberts, 97, saw pictures of the renovations in January when former the dean, Dr. William Kotowicz and Diana Neering, director of development, visited the Roberts at their Florida home.

"He was pleased to see the progress that was being made and seeing how different things would be," Kotowicz said. "As he looked at the pictures, Roy talked about some of his experiences as a dental student at Michigan. He was especially pleased to know that students would no longer have to crowd around one another and strain to see an instructor demonstrate a procedure, as they used to do when he was a student at Michigan in the late '20s and early '30s."

Neering said, "Dr. Roberts was excited to know that his gift to the School of Dentistry would be making a major difference in the lives of so many students for years to come."

U-M Regents authorized renovations to the west preclinic in January 2003, the first to that facility since the dentistry building was constructed in 1969. Renovations began to the west preclinic in April 2003.

The cost to renovate both the west and east preclinics will total approximately $7 million. Other funds are being raised from gifts from alumni and friends of the School of Dentistry.

The University of Michigan School of Dentistry is one of the nation's leading dental schools engaged in oral health care education, research, patient care, and community service. General dental care clinics and specialty clinics providing advanced treatment enable the School to offer dental services and programs to patients throughout Michigan. Classroom and clinic instruction prepare future dentists, dental specialists, and dental hygienists for practice in private offices, hospitals, academia, and public agencies. Research seeks to discover and apply new knowledge that can help patients worldwide. For more information about the School of Dentistry, visit the Web at:

Contact: Jerry Mastey,
Phone:(734) 615-1971,


Contact: Colleen Newvine, U-M News Service
Phone: (734) 647-4411