The Importance of Glove Ergonomics to Dentistry

Molly PereiraFeatured News

By Reva Darling Goucher, Association Gloves
Dentists and hygienists wear gloves when they treat patients to prevent cross-contamination and ensure clinician and patient safety. That you know. But did you know the daily use of traditional disposable gloves can contribute to debilitating musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)? The dental profession began using disposable gloves nearly three decades ago, but until recently, these long-term ergonomic effects of prolonged use of gloves were largely unknown. Now, some glove manufacturers are making it their mission to find a solution to keep dental professionals’ hands healthy.

Warning Signs of MSDs
Encasing your hands, fingers and wrists in gloves is like wearing giant rubber bands. The constriction caused by compression over time can affect delicate nerves and blood vessels. Engaging in prolonged muscle effort using chronic, repetitive movements of the hand and wrist, especially with the hand in “pinch” position, can result in serious hand and wrist conditions such as hand fatigue, tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. Over 50% of dental professionals have reported hand fatigue1 and 65% of registered dental hygienists reported having carpal tunnel syndrome. Signs of MSDs include decreased range of motion, loss of normal sensation and movement, decreased grip strength and loss of coordination. These serious conditions are painful and lead to loss of productivity, excessive medical costs and potential long-term damage if untreated. Fortunately, these conditions are preventable.
New Developments
Over the past several years, glove manufacturers have taken note and begun making many notable improvements to gloves by engineering materials to help minimize muscle exertion. One manufacturer, Microflex, has designed several ambidextrous nitrile and neoprene gloves that are extremely thin and malleable and do not force the thumb into an unnatural posture. To verify their new nitrile formulas reduce hand stress, Microflex sought out and gained a special ergonomic certification from an independent firm that specializes in testing ergonomic product claims. Choosing a glove with an ergonomic certification is significant to the long-term protection of dental professionals.
Why Ergonomic Gloves? 
What is the benefit of using an ergonomically certified glove? “A product that has received certification provides measurable ergonomic benefits to the anticipated users by improving comfort and fit and by minimizing the risk factors that may contribute to the development of ergonomic injuries,” according to U.S. Ergonomics.
U.S. Ergonomics conducted a comprehensive study and found that Microflex XCEED®, Ultraform®  and Neogard® gloves markedly reduced muscle effort compared to other leading competitors’ brands. In side-by-side testing, the gloves even outperformed bare-hand manipulations in some cases, showing a reduction in muscle effort compared to not wearing gloves. The lessened effort reduces the chances of developing injuries, pain and MSDs.
As a dental professional, your hands are one of your most precious assets. Educate your staff on the importance of ergonomic safety and be sure you are making knowledgeable product selections for those products you use on a daily basis. Look for the U.S. Ergonomics seal, ensuring the products you and your staff are using are designed to help prevent MSDs and long-term damage.
For more information and to order or request free glove and mask samples, call CDA-endorsed Association Gloves at 877-484-6149 or shop securely online at CDA members receive special pricing.

1. Guignon, Anne Nugent Registered Dental Hygienist  (RDH), MPH “What’s happening to your hands?” Accessed Sept. 14, 2011.