A complex haptic exercise to predict pre-clinic operative dentistry performance: A prospective study

Alice Urbankova, Leena Palomo, Steven P. Engebretson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose/objectives: The purpose of this study was to determine whether performance on a complex manual dexterity haptic test was associated with preclinical operative dentistry practical examination scores in handpiece naïve students. Methods: Thirty-nine first-year pre-clinical operative dentistry students completed a 15-min complex manual dexterity exercise “D-circle” repeated eight times in succession before the beginning of the preclinical operative dentistry course. A composite haptic score was compared with students’ subsequent preclinical operative examination performance and perceptual ability test scores. Results: Mean accuracy scores on the haptic test increased, and failures decreased across the eight repetitions. Thirty students were successful at least twice in eight attempts, while nine failed all or all but one attempt. The group that failed all or all but one had lower mean scores on the first practical examination (Exam 1) (78.4 vs. 82.2, p = 0.23 Student's t-test), and 7.0 odds of failing the examination (confidence interval 0.95–51.4, p = 0.06). As a diagnostic predictor of pre-clinical operative dentistry performance, failing all, or all but one attempt at the haptic test had 60% sensitivity and 82% specificity as a predictor of failure on Exam 1. This resulted in correct classification of 79%. Conclusions: These data provide evidence for the first time that a complex manual dexterity test on a haptic simulator given to dental students was predictive of early pre-clinical success. These prospective results confirm previous retrospective studies and if replicated in larger cohorts may lead to improvements in the dental school admissions process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1628-1633
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of dental education
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • computer-assisted instruction
  • dental education
  • haptics
  • operative dentistry
  • psychomotor performance
  • simulation
  • virtual reality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • General Dentistry


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