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A Guide to Dental Loupes

Dental loupes are effectively magnifying glasses used by clinicians to perform their tasks. They are quickly becoming popular with both dentists and dental students. In fact, in the United States, the majority of dental students are using magnification. Students in the UK are now beginning to catch up.

Why Use Loupes?

Aside from the obvious benefit of magnification of your clinical work, dental loupes are effective in eliminating back strain as it forces the operator to adopt a better posture. This happens because you lose focus if you get too close to the object. Common magnifications available are from x2 to x4+, depending on user preferences and the nature of clinical work being performed. As you can imagine, Endodontics would benefit more from higher magnification.

Magnification and resolution must be established for a successful pair of loupes. Resolution is the ability to distinguish two separate objects, whereas magnification is the degree of enlargement. Field of vision is the term used when an individual is looking down a pair of loupes and is able to see from the entire length from left to the right at any one given time. Typically, a higher degree of magnification results in a smaller field of vision.

Through the Lens (TTL) on Left, Flip up on Right

There are several different types of Dental loupes in the market, the main two are: Through the Lens (TTL), and Flip up Loupes. TTL loupes have the magnification built onto the lens, which means they cannot be moved – whereas Flip up loupes have a movable arm attached to the magnification and are adjustable. Both offer advantages and disadvantages:

TTL Loupes

  • Advantages
    • Lighter weight to equivalent Flip ups
    • Offer wider field of vision
    • Custom fit to individual at the most optimal ergonomic position
    • Better comfortable fit
    • Prescription glasses can be incorporated onto the lens
  • Disadvantages
    • They generally cost more than the equivalent magnification Flip ups
    • If a prescription glasses change, the loupes would need to be sent back to the manufacturer to be modified
    • Cannot be removed, so communicating with the patient can be troublesome
    • Only the clinician they are prescribed for can use them.

Flip Up Loupes

  • Advantages
    • Cost less than TTL loupes
    • Easily flipped up for better vision for routine tasks
    • Not operator specific
    • Prescription glasses can be easily changed on the lens
  • Disadvantages
    • Angle of declination is adjustable so you wont always get the most ergonomic position, strain to eyes and/or musculoskeletal systems
    • Weigh more than the equivalent TTL and potentially cause uneven weight distribution
    • Narrower field of vision

What needs to be considered when purchasing a pair of dental loupes?

  • TTL or Flip ups
  • Working distance
  • Depth of field
  • Light unit

The working distance can be defined as the distance from your loupes to the object in question. This distance can be measured if you position yourself with a patient lying on the dental chair. The distance is from your eyes, to the patients’ mouth when you are sat upright.

The depth of field is the ability to focus on an object in several different levels. Eg, If you have a set working distance for your loupes, that is the optimum distance to focus on. So if your depth of field is for example 10cm, you would be able to move back 5cm and 5 cm forward and still see the object clearly. If you move away from this depth of field, you would be out of focus and the object would seem blurry. It is beneficial to have a large depth of field so the loupes are more forgiving when you are operating with them.

A Light unit can be attached to the loupes and aid in the vision and detail. These are expensive but very effective in conjunction with loupes. Many argue that the combination of dental loupes with a light is significantly more effective than just loupes on their own. What some students choose to do is buy dental loupes and learn to work and appreciate magnification, and then later invest in a light to further appreciate the benefits.

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