Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Journal of Dental Hygiene








Problem: Developing new instrument designs to address the ergonomics of instrumentation and to decrease repetitive strain injuries in the dental hygienist is an ongoing area of development. Changing the weight and diameter of instrument handles has been suggested to reduce risk for trauma in the practitioner but minimal research has been conducted to determine design preferences of practicing dental hygienists. Objective: The purpose of this study was to assess dental hygienists opinions on the weight, diameter, balance and maneuverability of four different instrument handles. Methodology: After IRB approval, a convenience sample of 27 practicing dental hygienists from Virginia participated in the study. Four typodonts were set up for each participant with a different instrument randomly assigned for use on each. Subjects scaled first molars coated with artificial calculus using a Columbia 13/14 curet with four commercially available handle designs that varied in weight and diameter: A) 16 grams and 12.7 mm diameter; B) 23 grams and 11.1 mm diameter; C) 21 grams and 7.9 mm diameter and D) 18 grams, and 6.35 mm diameter. Following scaling participants used a 6 item survey to rate their comfort level on a 5-point scale ranging from 1 (very comfortable) to 5 (uncomfortable) with regard to balance, weight, diameter, maneuverability and overall preference. A Friedman test determined significant differences between participants' perceptions. A Wilcoxan signed rank test followed if differences were found. Results: Handle designs had significant effects on dental hygienists' instrument preferences while performing simulated scaling. Results revealed significant differences for participants' preferences concerning diameter (x2(3)=50.584, p=0.000), weight (x2(3)=24.650, p=0.000), balance (x2(3)=69.504, p=0.000) and maneuverability (x2(3)=67.728, p=0.000). When comparing comfort based on diameter grip, results reveal instrument D was least comfortable compared to A, B and C (p=0.000, p=0.000, p=0.000). Instrument A was most comfortable in weight when compared to all other instruments (p=0.008, p=0.000, p=0.000). In regards to balance significant differences were found between instrument A when compared to both C and D (p=0.000, p=0.000), with instrument A having the highest mean score (x=4.7). Finally, instrument A was rated most comfortable for maneuverability (p=0.003, p=0.000, p=0.000). Sixty-three percent of participants preferred instrument A, 26% instrument B, 11% instrument C and none preferred D. Conclusion: When performing simulated scaling, results indicate most participants preferred using a lighter weight, larger diameter instrument handle. Diameter affected preference more than weight. The smallest diameter handle was always ranked the lowest with regards to balance, weight, diameter and maneuverability although it was not the heaviest.

Original Publication Citation

Tolle, S. L., Suedbeck, J., McCombs, G. M., & Walker, M. L. (2017). Dental hygienists' perspectives on four periodontal instrument handle designs. Journal of Dental Hygiene, 91(2), 75-76.