Comparison of Corded and Cordless Handpieces on Forearm Muscle Activity, Procedure Time and Ease of Use during Simulated Tooth Polishing

J Dent Hyg. 2014 Dec;88(6):386-93.


Purpose: Dental professionals suffer from a high prevalence of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSD). Dental hygienists in particular have a high prevalence of pain in the forearms and hands. The objective of this study was to compare 1 cordless handpiece to 2 corded handpieces during simulated tooth polishing in terms of the muscle loads (recorded as electromyography (EMG) activity), duration of polishing procedure, and dental hygienist opinion about ease of use.

Methods: EMG was used to quantify muscle electrical activity of 4 forearm muscles during simulated dental polishing with 2 corded handpieces (HP-A and HP-B) and 1 cordless handpiece (HP-C). A convenience sample of 30 dental hygienists (23 to 57 years of age) with 1 to 20+ years of clinical practice experience completed the study. Each participant spent approximately 5 minutes polishing 3 predetermined teeth in each of the 4 quadrants. The sequence of the handpieces was randomly assigned. At the end of the study, participants completed a subjective end user evaluation of handpiece preference.

Results: Muscle activity levels of 10th, 50th and 90th percentiles did not differ significantly between the 3 handpieces tested (p>0.05). However, total muscle workload (integrated EMG) was lowest for the cordless handpiece (HP-C), but this was only significantly less than HP-A (p<0.05). Polishing using the cordless handpiece (HP-C) (M=257 seconds, SD=112 seconds) took significantly less time than either the HP-A corded (M=290 seconds, SD=137 seconds) or HP-B corded handpiece (M=290 seconds, SD=126 seconds) (p<0.05). Overall, 50% of the study participants preferred the cordless handpiece, 37% preferred HP-A and 13% preferred HP-B (p<0.05).

Conclusion: Use of the cordless handpiece reduced the duration of polishing, which in turn led to less total muscle activity, but not muscle intensity. Overall, dental hygienists preferred the cordless handpiece.

Keywords: EMG; MSD; cordless handpiece; ergonomics; musculoskeletal disorders.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Dental Hygienists* / psychology
  • Dental Prophylaxis / instrumentation*
  • Electrical Equipment and Supplies*
  • Electromyography
  • Equipment Design
  • Ergonomics
  • Female
  • Forearm / physiology*
  • Hand Strength / physiology
  • Humans
  • Isometric Contraction / physiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Myalgia / prevention & control
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult