Looking past the price

March 1, 2012
My first 15 years of dental hygiene practice took a toll on my body. I used what the doctor provided in the way of equipment ...

My first 15 years of dental hygiene practice took a toll on my body. I used what the doctor provided in the way of equipment, never imagining that there were safer ways to practice. By the end of each week, my neck and shoulders ached, my back was sore, my fingers tingled, and my elbow felt cramped. I was exhausted, and my husband at the time snickered, convinced that his UPS job was much harder than sitting in air conditioning and scraping teeth all day.

The lightbulb went on about 30 years ago. I realized that I had to be in charge of my body and my career. It was a constant battle to get my doctor to buy anything for hygiene, so I started buying my own equipment. First it was hand instruments, then gloves, and finally my own chair, loupes, and light. It was a turning point in my career. I’ve never looked back.

A recent post on AmysRDHlist.com caught my eye. “I recently purchased the same loupes that my doctor uses and I love them! They were very reasonable at $400. A hygienist in my office just spent $1,000 on loupes and was sick when she heard what I paid!”

It is great to see another hygienist investing in herself, but it concerns me that her primary focus was on the cost. While price is important to many, there are reasons for this type of price disparity.

Allow me to share what I told her.

First of all, it is great to know that you and your employer are both enjoying the benefits of magnification loupes! Once you’re armed with better visualization techniques, there is no going back. Properly fitted magnification improves visual acuity, and is a key component in saying no to daily aches and pains.

You pose a simple observation that I believe deserves a comprehensive and extensive answer. In the economic world there is an old adage — you get what you pay for. So the question becomes, why would one company be able to provide a pair of loupes for less than half the price of another? Let me offer an analogy — chocolate.

Imagine you are craving chocolate and can choose between a Hershey bar and a Godiva bar. Both are chocolate, but are the ingredients exactly the same? How about the quality of the ingredients? Is the pleasure you derive from eating a Hershey bar the same as a Godiva bar? Some would say yes, while others would say no. It is a matter of personal preference.

Is there a price difference between the two products? Yes. Are the products identical? Most would say no. But they are both chocolate and they both have the potential to create pleasure and add pounds. So if you can only afford a Hershey bar and you’re craving chocolate, the basic Hershey bar will suffice for a period of time.

In the world of loupes and chocolate, there are many different choices and grades of products. Price is only one determinant, and I believe the least important factor one should consider when selecting and purchasing a product such as loupes.

Here are some other factors to consider when you’re comparing magnification systems.

  1. Quality of the optical glass in the oculars — the highest quality comes from Germany and Japan. Companies that make high-end cameras and microscopes drive the optical glass market. Their customers demand the most pristine optics.
  2. Some oculars are made with plastic or low-grade glass, which lowers the manufacturing cost and does not produce as crisp an image.
  3. Do the oculars have even edge-to-edge clarity, or is the clarity better in the center, diminishing to the edge
  4. Carrier lens quality can differ as well. Is the carrier lens scratch resistant? Does it have an anti-reflective coating
  5. Frame quality can vary. Not all titanium is the same. How durable is a plastic frame? How do these materials compare to carbon composite frames
  6. Is the carrier lens large enough to support a deep declination angle for the oculars or the weight of a high-powered system
  7. What is the product warranty? What is covered and what is excluded
  8. Is there a trial period, and if so, how long is it? What is the return policy? Is there a restocking fee
  9. Is one’s personal prescription or reading correction included in the base product price or is there an additional fee? Can a personal prescription even be added? Some entry-level products can’t be customized, a roadblock for those of us who need “readers.”
  10. Can the nose pads be adjusted? Can the frame be tweaked to fit one’s facial geometry? These two points are particularly critical for clinicians of Asian descent. Some of us have enough nose real estate to support any type of frame, while others have a flat or broad nasal bridge, which changes the dynamics of fitting a frame to the face.
  11. Are the products made in America? This is a more important factor than ever if we are going to put Americans to work.
  12. Is the manufacturer focused on a long-term relationship with the dental hygiene profession, or are their sights set on the immediate sale
  13. What is the manufacturer’s reputation for customer service? Is the company responsive, helpful, and reasonable
  14. Are there payment plans to help budget this type of capital expenditure

Investing in a pair of loupes is a serious decision and deserves careful consideration of one’s budget, clinical needs, and the expected length of service. A well thought out purchase sets the stage for many years of improved visual acuity, a key component of your professional comfort zone.

Anne Nugent Guignon, RDH, MPH, provides popular programs, including topics on biofilms, power driven scaling, ergonomics, hypersensitivity, and remineralization. Recipient of the 2004 Mentor of the Year Award and the 2009 ADHA Irene Newman Award, Anne has practiced clinical dental hygiene in Houston since 1971.

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