Background The COVID-19 pandemic massively impacts endodontic teaching and a dramatically reduced number of patients is registered in clinical courses. This could be countered with suitable training aids. Based on treatment errors made by students in the last five years of endodontic courses at RWTH Aachen University (Germany), a new artificial root canal treatment model (DRSK RCT) was developed. The model was aimed to be radiopaque and to simulate the tactile feel during instrumentation in a realistic manner. Unlike already existing 3D-printed tooth replicas, the RCT has anatomical root canals with a narrow lumen with its width matching an ISO size 6 endodontic file.
Methodology 35 fourth-year students and seven dental demonstrators performed endodontic treatments on both the DRSK RCT and extracted teeth. Students and demonstrators answered a questionnaire on a scale ranging from 1 to 7 (poor to high) for different items (part 1). After the first study, changes in the materials and root canal anatomy were applied to the model. Then, the whole study was repeated and evaluated (part 2). Finally, it was evaluated whether the models could replace patient treatment during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Results Ratings by students and dental instructors (5.1 ± 0.4 and 5.3 ± 1.5 [mean ± SD], respectively) in the first study increased after modifications of the DRSK RCT (5.5 ± 0.5 and 6.2 ± 0.8, respectively). Radiographs of the models were excellently assessable. The properties of the DRSK RCT were found to be realistic, thus allowing students to perform a satisfactory simulation of root canal treatment and being rated sufficient in substituting patient treatment during COVID-19 pandemic.
Conclusion The analysis suggests that the DRSK RCT has the ability to improve endodontic technique and education. Visible root canals enable students to observe the treatment process. All steps of a regular root canal treatment can be simulated. Further studies are needed to investigate the outcome of treating the first patient after practicing on the DRSK RCT.