The benefits of wearing loupes in dental hygiene practice include improvement in vision, ergonomics, patient care, and stamina.1 Sounds great! But how many dental hygienists actually wear loupes, and what has been their experience with them? RDH magazine conducted a survey to answer these questions and more. The results are in and—not surprisingly—the majority of hygienists are reaping the benefits of wearing loupes.
Q1: Do you currently wear loupes?
Of the 1,769 respondents to the survey, 80.38% indicated they currently wear loupes all the time. That’s great news! Hygienists are prevention specialists, and as such, we should be concerned not only with our patients, but with ourselves. One way we can protect ourselves and prevent musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) is by wearing loupes with every patient.
There is a high prevalence of musculoskeletal pain in dental hygienists. One systematic review reported an overall prevalence of 78%, with the most common areas being the neck (58.5%), shoulder (43.1%), and upper back (41.1%).2 Studies have shown that the use of magnification loupes improves working posture and significantly reduces the symptoms of MSDs in dental hygienists.3
Q2: How do you feel about loupes?
When asked how they feel about wearing loupes, the majority of respondents (79.80%) indicated that they love loupes. 9.16% indicated that loupes are OK. One respondent wrote, “I’m retired now but when I was practicing, I always wore them and loved them. Loupes made my job easier. Posture was improved and everything dealing with vision was amazing. I wouldn’t work without them ever.”
Not all respondents were as enthusiastic. 11.05% of respondents checked off either “I don’t care for them” or “Other—please specify.” Several respondents stated that they had not tried loupes.
Q3: If you are unhappy with your current loupes situation, is cost a factor? This includes if you do not own loupes but would like to.
While the majority of loupes users were happy with their current loupes situation, cost was certainly a factor for those who were unhappy with their current pair and for those who did not already own a pair. While the cost of loupes may be prohibitive for some hygienists, many companies offer payment plans. Hygienists can also approach their dentists and explain the benefits, and then perhaps share the cost if the dentist is not willing to pay for them entirely. It can’t hurt to ask!
Q4: If you are not currently wearing loupes, when do you plan on purchasing them?
Of non-loupe wearers, about an equal number responded that they will not be purchasing loupes as those who said they would be purchasing them in the future or were undecided.
Q5: If you have loupes but wear them infrequently, why are you not wearing them all the time?
With all the benefits of wearing loupes, why aren’t we all wearing them? Dental hygienists who own loupes but wear them infrequently complained of headaches, dizziness, heaviness, neck strain, inability to see the computer screen with loupes on, difficulty wearing them under a face shield, scaring children, difficulty disinfecting, aggravating motion sickness, changing prescriptions, and some clinicians feel their vision is fine without them.
Several respondents stated that they simply couldn’t afford them. One hygienist lamented that they “smooshed my eyelashes and fogged severely with one breath.” Some simply thought they were uncomfortable or couldn’t get used to them. One respondent said, “I get tunnel vision and it’s hard to communicate with the patient because I feel like I’m in my own bubble, plus I get overly anal about cleanings and patients don’t like it.”
Some of these issues can be corrected by wearing newer, lighter weight loupes, and a professional fitting is essential.
A few dental hygienists believed that the use of loupes would cause their eyesight to deteriorate. However, decreasing close-up visual acuity is a normal and unavoidable process of aging, which usually begins at age 40 or older.4,5 As close-up vision declines with age, clinicians may find themselves straining to visualize areas of the mouth. The use of properly fitted magnification loupes can help ease eye strain due to loss of visual acuity.
Q6: Who purchased, or will purchase, your current loupes?
The vast majority (81%) stated that they had purchased their loupes themselves. Only 10.48% responded that their dentist bought loupes for them, but some mentioned that the loupes were cheap and didn’t fit properly. Considering the expense of loupes, wouldn’t it be nice if more dentists purchased quality loupes for their hygienists? The dentist would also benefit when their hygienist avoids MSDs and patients receive better care. Here’s how one hygienist got her dentist to pay for her loupes: “My husband purchased them for me as a wedding gift—my request. Spouse is a dentist.” Unfortunately, that method will not apply to all.
Q7: How long have you had your current loupes?
The majority of loupes wearers have been wearing them for more than five years. Many stated that they wouldn’t work without them.
Q8: Who do you consider to be the top companies selling loupes?
The four companies leading in popular mention were Orascoptic , Q-Optics, Designs for Vision, and SurgiTel.
Q9: What do you perceive as the key features to look for when purchasing loupes?
Most respondents said that a custom fit was a key feature to look for when purchasing loupes. This makes sense as custom-fitted loupes prevent many of the complaints that hygienists mentioned in the survey. Use of a light was another key feature. Price is a big issue with hygienists when purchasing loupes.
Q10: Where do you plan on purchasing your next set of loupes?
Many hygienists were satisfied with their current loupes and had no plans to purchase new ones. Of those who were considering buying loupes, the majority planned to purchase them at a trade show. Others planned on having a dealer come to the office.
Considering the ergonomic and patient care benefits of wearing loupes, just about all hygienists should be wearing them unless advised otherwise by their eye doctors or physicians. A proper professional fitting is essential for comfort and effectiveness, and it takes time and patience to adjust to using them. But for most hygienists, loupes should be an essential part of their patient care and self-care.
- Auger A. 4 benefits of wearing loupes. Orascoptic. May 15, 2018. https://www.orascoptic.com/blog/4-benefits-wearing-loupes
- Lietz J, Ulusoy N, Nienhaus A. Prevention of musculoskeletal diseases and pain among dental professionals through ergonomic interventions: a systematic literature review. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020;17(10):3482. doi:10.3390/ijerph17103482
- Plessas A, Delgado MB. The role of ergonomic saddle seats and magnification loupes in the prevention of musculoskeletal disorders. A systematic review. Int J Dent Hyg. 2018;16(4):430-440. doi:10.1111/idh.12327
- Pencek L. Vision and magnification for clinical dental hygiene practice. RDH magazine. July 1, 2007. https://www.rdhmag.com/pathology/public-health/article/16407069/vision-magnification-for-clinical-dental-hygiene-practice
- Adult vision: 41 to 60 years of age. American Optometric Association. https://www.aoa.org/healthy-eyes/eye-health-for-life/adult-vision-41-to-60-years-of-age