QUESTION: I need to purchase a new pair of loupes, as I’ve been using the same pair for almost a decade. What are the most important things to look for when I’m selecting a new pair? Thank you.
The use of loupes in the dental operatory may be the most important strategy for ensuring your ergonomic health, and choosing the best pair for your needs is paramount to ensuring success. The style of frame is a good starting point. Multiple frame options are available with one of the three types of magnification lenses: through-the-lens (TTL), flip-up style, or through-the-flip (which has magnification oculars embedded on the lens that can flip up). The closer the optic is to the eye, the larger the field of view (FOV). TTL loupes do not need optical adjustment; however, additional fees are incurred if you have a prescription added to the lenses. The manufacturer should measure your interpupillary distance with TTL, as the optics are fixed.
After choosing the lens style and frames, select your magnification optic. Most manufacturers recommend a magnification from 2.5 x to 3.0 x for dental hygienists. However, there is a new type of loupe on the market that claims to offer 3.5 x magnification with a large FOV.
To ensure the best fit, working distance, depth of field, declination angle, and co-axial alignment must be considered. The manufacturer should measure the space between your eyes and the oral cavity, or working distance. Depth of field is related to magnification strength, as it is a measurement of how well an object remains in focus when you move in and away from it.1 The higher the magnification, the smaller the FOV. Finding the right working distance and FOV will help you remain in a neutral posture with only slight flexion of the neck.
The declination angle refers to the view between the line of sight determined by the loupes and your actual line of sight. In other words, it is the angle that your eyes move downward toward the oral cavity. You do not want your forward head tilt to be more than 20° so this measurement is key to ensuring you get the right fit.1 Additionally, if the lenses of the loupes are in co-axial misalignment, what you see while wearing loupes will not align with the unmagnified view.1 Making sure the lenses are co-axially aligned is important to effective use.
Most frames are designed to include a light in order to eliminate the need to adjust the overhead light and reduce shadows in the oral cavity. Intensity and weight vary by manufacturer, and cordless options are available. Be sure to inquire about warranty, battery life, and the cost of battery replacement.
As an experienced clinician with loupes, you may want to try a variety of styles and magnification and compare them to your current pair. Choose a set that feels comfortable and is measured and designed specifically for you. Always follow the manufacturer instructions for use for disinfection and safety. The purchase of loupes is an investment and, when accurately measured, will benefit your musculoskeletal health.
- Ludwig E, Tolle SL. Ensure proper fit. Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. 2017;15(4):24–26.
From Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. May 2019;17(5):46.