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Publication Date


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Journal of Dental Hygiene








Purpose: Dental hygienists perform precision instrumentation tasks repetitively throughout the workday, placing them at increased risk for developing a musculoskeletal disorder. The purpose of this pilot study was to determine differences in muscle activity and pinch force generation between the traditional scaling technique and a modified scaling technique.

Methods: A convenience sample of dental hygienists (n=12) acted as their own controls in this counterbalance-designed pilot study. Muscle activity and pinch forces were assessed while participants performed traditional and modified scaling techniques with designated instruments on artificial calculus applied to the lower left quadrant of a typodont, for a period of five minutes. Surface electromyography was used to measure muscle activity; sensors attached to the instrument handle measured pinch forces. Participants were surveyed regarding the instruments used and scaling technique preferences at the conclusion of the session. Parametric and non-parametric tests were used to analyze the data. Descriptive statistics were used to analyze the exit survey.

Results: The modified scaling technique required less muscle activity than the traditional technique while scaling, however results were not significant (p >0.05). The traditional scaling technique required greater overall pinch force during scaling (p =.00). Pairwise comparisons revealed significant differences between pinch force generation in the thumb for the two scaling techniques (Z = -2.401, p= 0.016) and in the index finger (Z = -2.223, p= 0.026). The traditional scaling technique generated more pinch force (thumb x = 7.25±4.99, index finger x=2.86±2.14) when compared to the modified scaling technique (thumb x=4.52±2.32, index finger x=1.65±1.28). Participants had a slightly higher preference for the instrument utilized for the modified scaling technique in terms of balance, maneuverability, overall comfort and the associated scaling technique as compared to the instrument utilized for the traditional scaling technique.

Conclusion: Use of a modified scaling technique may reduce muscle activity and pinch force generation as compared to the traditional lateral pressure scaling technique during instrumentation. Future research on ergonomic scaling techniques is needed to determine their efficacy and impact on musculoskeletal disorders.


© 2021 American Dental Hygienists Association.

Included with the kind written permission of the publisher.

Original Publication Citation

Suedbeck, J. R., & Armitano-Lago, C. (2021). The effects of the traditional scaling technique versus a modified scaling technique on muscle activity and pinch force generation: A pilot study. Journal of Dental Hygiene, 95(2), 6-13.


0000-0001-7681-8042 (Suedbeck)