We are #RooReady for fall semester classes. Learn more about the UMKC response to the global COVID-19 pandemic and get the latest updates and safety information from the CDC.

UMKC School of Dentistry Unveils State-of-the-Art Training Lab

Simulation lab is the newest in the U.S. — and among the largest
Three UMKC dental students who present as males stand among operators in the new dental simulation lab.

The University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry now includes a new state-of-the-art training lab for students, thanks to a multimillion-dollar makeover. The dental simulation lab is among the newest in the U.S. — and the largest.

Before: first-and-second-year dental students worked on mouth models attached to metal rods, each euphemistically referred to by students as a “head on a stick.”

Now: 110 fully-equipped, ergonomically-correct work stations feature head-and-torso simulated patients. Each also includes water for rinsing and suction– like a real dental operatory.

“The lab is spectacular,” said Marsha Pyle, dean of the UMKC School of Dentistry, who has been advocating for the lab renovation for years. “This will give our students more real-life experiences before performing dental care on people.”

UMKC School of Dentistry Dean Marsha Pyle stands with other faculty and staff in new dental sim lab

The students were impressed, too, when they got their first chance to check it out. 

“The lab feels so open and bright now,” said Bryce Boyd, a second-year dental student, after her first class in the new facility. “It felt like being in a real clinical setting, being able to drill with water and having to position ourselves properly around a patient. Last year, instructors always emphasized posture and positioning, but with the new work stations, we have to practice those things. I also think it will make the transition much easier next year when we are working on real patients.”

Better ergonomic training — to eventually improve patient care and to help avoid disabilities later in dental careers — was a big reason why Pyle wanted the renovation. She also wanted to maintain the school’s reputation for high-quality instruction and its ability to recruit top students. 

Pyle’s efforts to finance the $4 million project attracted substantial contributions from alumni, support from the school’s Rinehart Foundation and a generous match from the school’s Dental Alumni Association. The needed fundraising was completed when the Sunderland Foundation gave $2 million to the project, which not only included the lab renovation and equipment, but a new air handler and HVAC system for the space. 

“It felt like being in a real clinical setting, being able to drill with water and having to position ourselves properly around a patient…I also think it will make the transition much easier next year when we are working on real patients.” – Bryce Boyd, student

A closeup of one of the mannequins and dental equipment in the new lab at the UMKC School of Dentistry

Cynthia Petrie, DDS, the department chair who oversees the classes taught in the lab, said that besides teaching proper positioning, the new mannequins and dental simulators manufactured and installed by the Dentsply Sirona “also replicate all the orofacial structures as closely as possible to human conditions. The students can practice using and manipulating dental instruments and handpieces in the same way that they will later do intra-orally on a patient.”

Petrie said the stations also integrate training videos and simulated patient record-keeping software.

“The entire lab space has been designed to be conducive for student learning,” she said. “Each station has its own monitor where the student can view educational resources such as photos and example videos of the exercises that they will perform. The stations are set in a way that faculty can navigate around the room and observe the students’ performance and provide appropriate instruction.”

Student Nicole Kurlbaum, president of the school’s DDS Class of 2022, said: “I have worked as a dental assistant, and the new lab is much more like being in a real practice. I know years of planning and fundraising went into this project, and now we all can appreciate it.” 

“The lab is spectacular. This will give our students more real-life experiences before performing dental care on people.”  Marsha Pyle, dean of the UMKC School of Dentistry

The UMKC School of Dentistry simulation lab that shows the expanse of state-of-the-art equipment and space. No people in this photograph.