Do women dentists "see" things better? Today's woman dentist is using many tools to get ahead in her practice. Magnification is one element that can enhance the ability to produce comfortably and well. And today's magnification options are numerous enough to be both functional and comfortable and enhance production.
Here's why magnification is important: Our patients' mouths are very small places. We all work on tiny objects in tiny spaces. The better we see, the better diagnoses and treatment we perform. Eye strain and back strain can be greatly reduced with the use of loupes and surgical microscopes.
Clinical advantages are many. With magnification, hard and soft tissues of the oral cavity can be examined in greater detail to make better diagnoses at earlier stages. We can work less invasively and create better restorative margins.
When using properly fitted magnification, we can operate more ergonomically. Better posture reduces muscle strain and allows us to possibly avoid back and neck problems. Better vision also reduces eye strain and fatigue. This may be especially important for dentists who are pregnant or nursing because of extra strain on back muscles.
When deciding about magnification, look at these four options:
- Power of magnification — ability of the lens to increase the visual size of what you are viewing. The more common forms are in the range of 2.0 to 6.0 times.
- Working distance or focal length — the ideal distance of the lens to the viewed object. A good system will enhance proper ergonomic positioning. The average working distance ranges from 12 to 18 inches or more depending on your height.
- Field of view — area seen through the magnification system at a single glance without moving. A wide field of view is desirable; however, as magnification increases, the field of view decreases.
- Depth of field — working area for the objects in focus. As magnification increases, the depth of field decreases.
Evaluate each system by comparing these four features and choose the system that gives you the best results.
Loupes are available in two forms — through-the-lens and flip-ups. With newer optics, the depth of field has improved as has the field of vision. Loupes range in power from 2.5 to 5.5 times. Each type of loupe has its advantages and disadvantages. Through-the-lens types are usually lighter in weight and keep the optics closer to your eyes, but they are always present and can get in the way when you talk with patients or take photographs. Flip-ups can be easily flipped up out of your field of vision when not being used, but they are heavier and can be knocked out of alignment.
The major manufacturers of loupes are Orascoptic, SurgiTel, Designs for Vision, Keeler, and Zeiss. Each has its own distinct features. Perform a model-to-model comparison to determine which one gives you the most comfort and best field of vision.
Increasingly, surgical microscopes are being "borrowed" for use in dentistry. The added advantages of increased magnification and illumination from a microscope make diagnosis, treatment, and ergonomics superior to that found with loupes. Most microscopes have multiple levels of magnification, ranging from 2.6 to 24 times. With a microscope, you can examine your patient's teeth and soft tissues at numerous focal lengths and levels of magnification.
This added level of visual acuity assists in diagnosis of decay and micro-fractures, helps locate and instrument canals during endodontic treatment, improves posture during treatment thus lessening eye fatigue and muscle strains, and aids in patient education. Disadvantages of the microscope include cost, space requirements, and a time-intensive learning curve. Global Surgical, Zeiss, and Seiler are three excellent manufacturers of dental surgical microscopes.
Loupes are not only good for the dentist. Dental hygienists are beginning to appreciate the same benefits of using magnification. Loupes can enhance diagnostic and treatment procedures and boost production because of less eye, neck, and back strain.
"Seeing" is believing. In our goal to provide the highest quality in patient care in an ergonomically efficient way, magnification can enhance both precision and accuracy for today's new restorative world, including micro-dentistry. Try magnification to enjoy greater precision and comfort in your practice.
Jeff Dalin, DDS Dr. Dalin is a Fellow in the American and International Colleges of Dentists and the Academy of General Dentistry. He practices general dentistry in St. Louis, Mo., and is editor of St. Louis Dentistry Magazine. Contact him at [email protected] or (314) 567-5612.