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.