Are Your Dental Loupes Worsening Your Neck Health?

By Dr. Bethany Valachi, PT, DPT, MS, CEAS

Imagine spending $1,500 on new loupes and then developing neck pain—or your existing neck pain worsens. This is an all-too-common problem that I frequently encounter in my dental ergonomic consultations and among my dental students.   On the other hand, I have repeatedly seen well-designed ergonomic loupes that improve or completely resolve neck pain. So how do you know if your loupes are improving or worsening your health?

Of all the criteria for selecting loupes (working distance, frame size, scope position, declination angle, co-axial adjustment), declination angle is the most important ergonomic factor that can make or break your health.

Studies show that working with the neck flexed forward only 20 degrees or more for 70 percent of the working time has been associated with neck pain.  While no loupe systems provide completely neutral head posture (ear-over-shoulder), loupes with a steep declination angle may significantly improve operator working postures in dentistry, thereby lessening risk of musculoskeletal disorders and improving clinician comfort. Therefore, to prevent musculoskeletal injury, loupes should enable you to work with less than 20 degrees of neck flexion.

Declination angle is the angle that your eyes are inclined downward toward the work area. This angle should be steep enough to help you attain a comfortable working position with minimal forward head posture.  Staying within this safe head posture requires a loupe with a steep declination—from 40 to 50 degrees. Many team members opt for through-the-lens (TTL) loupes, which typically cannot achieve greater than a 30-degree declination angle and very often force the operator into unsafe forward head postures. Among my dental students, I have repeatedly measured the declination angle of TTL loupes that were promised to have a declination angle of 40-45 degrees—only to discover they had merely a 20-25 degree declination angle

Student was told these loupes had a 40 degree declination angle. In reality, it was only 20 degrees.

There is only one style of loupe on the market that consistently keeps dental operators within this safe head posture—a vertically adjustable flip-up loupe.

Vertically adjustable flip-up loupes with 40 degree declination angle improved head posture.

Discover more evidence-based ergonomic strategies you can easily implement in your operatory to avoid costly injuries and financial loss at my lecture “Practice Dentistry Pain-Free” on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017, at the Summit. My tips can help you improve your health—and not make it worse!

If you haven’t already registered for the Summit, I am pleased to offer you some incentive to do it today. Here’s $200 off your registration! Just enter code BLOG when you register.

I can’t wait to see you in November at the Summit in Orlando.




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