The effect of tool handle shape on hand muscle load and pinch force in a simulated dental scaling task

Hui Dong, Peter Loomer, Alan Barr, Charles LaRoche, Ed Young, David Rempel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations


Work-related upper extremity musculoskeletal disorders, including carpal tunnel syndrome, are prevalent among dentists and dental hygienists. An important risk factor for developing these disorders is forceful pinching which occurs during periodontal work such as dental scaling. Ergonomically designed dental scaling instruments may help reduce the prevalence of carpal tunnel syndrome among dental practitioners. In this study, eight custom-designed dental scaling instruments with different handle shapes were used by 24 dentists and dental hygienists to perform a simulated tooth scaling task. The muscle activity of two extensors and two flexors in the forearm was recorded with electromyography while thumb pinch force was measured by pressure sensors. The results demonstrated that the instrument handle with a tapered, round shape and a 10 mm diameter required the least muscle load and pinch force when performing simulated periodontal work. The results from this study can guide dentists and dental hygienists in selection of dental scaling instruments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)525-531
Number of pages7
JournalApplied Ergonomics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Dentistry
  • Electromyography
  • Hand tool

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)


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