The purpose of the study was to investigate which supervisory approach afforded the most efficient learning method for undergraduate students in oral and maxillofacial surgery (OMS) using a computerised third molar surgery simulator.
Fifth year dental students participated voluntarily in a randomised experimental study using the simulator. The amount of time required and the number of trials used by each student were evaluated as a measure of skills development. Students had the opportunity to practise the procedure until no further visible improvements were achieved. The study assessed four different types of supervision to guide the students. The first group was where they were supported by a teacher/specialist in OMS, the second by a teaching assistant, the third group practised without any supervision and the fourth received help from a simulator technician/engineer. A protocol describing assessment criteria was designed for this purpose, and a questionnaire was completed by all participating students after the study.
The average number of attempts required to virtually remove a third molar tooth in the simulator was 1.44 times for the group supervised by an OMS teacher; 1.5 times for those supervised by a teaching assistant; 2.8 times for those who had no supervision; and 3.6 times when support was provided only by a simulator technician. The results showed that the most efficient experience of the students was when they were helped by an OMS teacher or a teaching assistant. In a time and cost-effective perspective, supervision by a teaching assistant for a third molar surgery simulator would be the optimal choice.