Ergonomics and Dental Hygiene

Ergonomics has a clear and direct benefit for dental hygienists, many of whom experience chronic neck and back pain at some time in their careers as a result of constantly having to maintain unnatural postures such as leaning over their patients. Over time, contorting your body and simultaneously performing repetitive movements during procedures such as cleaning or de-scaling, can lead to muscles spams and compression of the spinal discs, resulting in pain and impaired movement.

Studies have shown that the simplest and most effective way to immediately improve posture – the key to preventing and/or reducing neck and back pain – is to keep the spine in a neutral position as often as possible. This means sitting up straight with the shoulders level and the head upright. Within the field of dental hygiene this is only possible with the help of magnification and good seating equipment.

Well-fitting, optically precise dental loupes are an excellent way to achieve improved posture almost immediately. However, with so many different makes of loupes and magnification levels out there, it can be a little daunting trying to find dental loupes that are right for you.

Studying loupe design will reveal that some loupe frames are made of more lightweight material than others, and that some models offer additional benefits such as adjustable nose bridges, which can alleviate irritation and pressure for some wearers. Of course, it is also true to say that face shape, nose size and personal preferences will also play a part in determining what feels most comfortable. These days many loupe manufacturers will offer a choice of frames, some lightweight, some designer and some developed for protection, onto which the loupes can be fitted, so it’s always good to look around.

The other thing to consider is that the higher the magnification level, the heavier the loupes are likely to be, which can potentially defeat your ergonomic objectives. The heavier the lenses, the more likely they are to place pressure on the bridge of the nose and ears, which can prove to be uncomfortable for some. Generally speaking, Galilean lenses are lighter than prismatic ones but this can sometimes mean compromising on optical quality – higher magnification lenses (3.5 x upwards) usually employ prismatic ally constructed optics.

However it is important not to compromise too much on optical quality or you run the risk of eye strain, or of developing back ache from leaning forward because your depth of field isn’t big enough to see to the back of the mouth. Loupes that are cleverly designed, using lightweight materials and through the lens (TTL) optics, which increase field size but reduce lens weight, offer enhanced magnification as well as the very best in ergonomics, allowing dental hygienists to get the best of both worlds. What’s more their rectangular-shaped lenses allow a wider field of view, making it easier to introduce and remove instruments more smoothly.