Dental loupes can be a valuable asset to dental professionals. They essentially function as telescopes, enlarging areas where work is to be done by the dentist or hygienist. They assist the clinician to not miss details like; overhanging margins of restorations, incorrect cavo-surface angles, remaining calculus, spotting areas of inflammation more easily.
Interestingly, despite their popularity with many dental professionals, there seems to be a lack of information of what to look for when buying loupes, particularly for students.
In this guide we will go over some of the most frequently asked questions and various factors which you must take into consideration when purchasing a set of loupes.
Why do I need loupes?
Even with perfect eyesight, lots of detail can be missed without magnification. Bending over and straining yourself to see better is not a solution!
In addition to this they assist in maintaining the correct posture whilst carrying out a treatment. This helps to prevent or at the very least significantly delay the onset of chronic back pain and neck pain, which a large number of dental professionals suffer from. In the absence of these unpleasant occurrences, career longevity will no doubt be improved allowing you to practice for many years to come!
Do I need them whilst I’m studying in university?
This is a tricky question to answer since there are arguments for and against the use of Loupes.
In a study published in the journal of dental education in 1998, Fifty-two third-year students were randomly assigned to experimental (magnification) or control (no magnification) groups. Members of the experimental group used magnification in their daily work in the pediatric dentistry clinic. No significant differences between the groups’ preparations or evaluations of standard preparations were found (Donaldson, Knight, and Guenzel, 1998).
In a separate, more recent study; the performance of first-year dental students was assessed during an Advanced Simulation Course using virtual reality-based technology training. The test group consisted of 116 dental students using magnification loupes, while students not using them served as the control. The study found that students using loupes completed more preparations, worked faster per procedure, therefore displaying greater overall performance. The survey revealed a high degree of student acceptance of using magnification (Maggio, Villegas, and Blatz, 2011).
There is no definitive answer to this question, there are a large number of dentists which advocate the use of loupes for dental students who argue that, although they are quite a large investment (especially for a students), Loupes help to create and maintain good habits in terms of posture and their increased attention to detail. On the other hand some dentists have said that they cant work with loupes because it makes them dizzy when alternating between looking at the patients mouth and looking at the instrument tray for example.
The best thing to do is to try them on! A number of Loupes companies/businesses will visit dental schools during conferences, trade fairs and provide students with the opportunity to try on their range of models. Some manufacturers also allow a limited trial period (around 45 days) where you can work with them on clinic and if you are not happy with your by the end of your trial, you return them to the manufacturer and you don’t pay.
What if I wear glasses?
This doesn’t pose any obstacles preventing you from using the loupes. Most, if not all Loupes manufacturers will adjust your loupes to your prescription glasses regardless if you go for flip up loupes or through the lens loupes.
Which one? Front-Lens-Mounted/FLM ( flip-ups ) or Through-the-Lens/TTL
The answer to this question is that its entirely dependent on personal preference. Some advantages of the FLM models are: you can customize your working angle, you can easily switch between magnified and direct vision, and changing the prescription lenses is quick and simple. Their main disadvantage is that they are heavier than TTL loupes.
Some advantages of the TTL models are: they feel lighter when in use and you may be able to get a bigger field size dependent on your facial features. One of the disadvantages to TTL models are that they tend to be more expensive than FLM.
Again, the best way to identify what’s best for you is to try each model to find which is the most comfortable.
Things to consider when buying loupes:
Since the normal working hours of a dental professional are between 6 to 8 hours a day, the loupes need to be fairly light so that they do not need to be taken off frequently by the practitioner due to a feeling of discomfort. Having said this, it doesn’t mean the lightest pair of loupes on the market are the best, it may seem that way on paper but actually some heavier loupes feel lighter on the face due to superior weight distribution, materials used(such as titanium frames, soft silicone nose pads) and design.
Cost of accessories and replacement parts
Let’s say you’ve just bought your pair of loupes and after 2 weeks using them you decide that you want to buy a light for them. Some companies could charge extortionate prices for accessories such as lights, straps etc. and can be nearly as much as the original cost of the loupes themselves!
In addition to this, no matter how well you take care of your loupes and how well they’re made at some point in time they will need a replacement part(s). It is therefore a smart idea to research these costs before committing to purchase from a particular company as it could save you money in the long run.
Ease of maintenance
How easy is it to keep the loupes in optimal condition? Is it as simple as giving them a quick soak in soapy water and a wipe with a soft cloth or do you have to invest in ‘special’ cleaning products and follow a complicated cleaning ritual every week? This is an important factor to consider because if basic maintenance takes too long or costs a lot then you are likely to neglect taking care of the loupes and they will develop a fault sooner or later.
After sales care
In the event you do have a problem with your loupes, how will the Loupes company take care of you and your loupes?
Is the frame and lens protected in a warranty?
Do you have to pay for postage?
Are the customer sales team easy to reach and helpful?
The best way to get answers to these questions is by speaking to owners of the loupes your interested to buy, they don’t have to have the same model but if its from the same company and their answer is positive then you are also like to have a helpful experience with that company.
The most common common magnification that beginners go for is 2.5x magnification, this is because it provides the widest field of view whilst still enlarging the working area to a satisfactory standard. Having said this,it is very common for users to graduate to higher levels of magnification as they become accustomed to working with loupes. You must therefore condsider if you would like to purchase a set of loupes with a higher initial magnification such as 3.5x or 4.0x in order to save money in the long run.
Field of View
The field of view is what you can see through the loupes. It is proportional to working distance, for example longer working distance would mean a larger field of view.
Some benefits of a larger field of vision:
- Reduced eye fatigue
- Can make bringing instruments into the field of view easier
Resolution is concerned with the clarity of the image throughout the field of vision.
Also called the focus range or effective focus range, this is the distance between the nearest and furthest objects in a view that appear suitably sharp in an image.
For example, if the field depth of your loupes is 20 cm, and you’re looking at your instrument tray, your depth of field allows you to lean forwards and backwards by 10cm and your subject (in this example, your instrument tray) will remain in focus.
Angle of Declination
A correctly set angle of declination is paramount to the user being able to take advantage of the ergonomic benefits from wearing loupes. It reduces neck and back strain and forces the user to look down the optics as opposed to awkwardly positioning themselves in order to get a good view of the subject. The steeper the angle of declination the less you have to bend your neck.
1: Donaldson, M., Knight, G. and Guenzel, P. (1998) ‘The effect of magnification on student performance in pediatric operative dentistry’, Journal of Dental Education, 62(11), pp. 905–910.
2: Maggio, M., Villegas, H. and Blatz, M. (2011) ‘The effect of magnification loupes on the performance of preclinical dental students’, Quintessence international (Berlin, Germany : 1985)., 42(1), pp. 45–55.