How ergonomic loupes and a wireless headlight helped a high-performing hygienist reach new heights and teach best practices.
Nancy Adair, a dental hygienist based in Kelowna, British Columbia, recently reached a milestone attained by few in her profession: 40 years on the job—one that blossomed into a career that expands the boundaries of her role and instructs others to do the same.
Adair describes herself as a “working-class hygienist.” Growing up in small-town Ontario, she was blessed with keen hand-eye coordination and an observant mother, who suggested to her teenage daughter that dexterity and dentistry went hand in hand—or rather, hand in mouth.
Fast-forward 4-plus decades and, working class or not, other prefixes could aptly precede “hygienist” when defining Adair’s career. “Über-” would work; perhaps “super-” might fit best. Adair’s passion to optimize her value to dentists and patients alike is evident. So is her determination to pay it forward to the next generation.
For the past 13 years, Adair has done far more than ably assist myriad general dentists and periodontists. She has shaped the professional perspectives and skill sets of hundreds of fellow hygienists. Adair is the founder and president of Hygiene Excellence Inc, a Program Approval for Continuing Education–approved provider whose intensive, immersive skills teach those assisting dentists to be far more than teeth cleaners.
From 8-hour weekend workshops to 52-hour multiweekend courses, the organization’s goal is to produce next-level hygienists trained and motivated to serve as vigilant monitors in an ever-evolving dentistry landscape, one in which modern hygienists must detect issues such as oral systemic correlation, ailing or failing dental implants, and periodontal conditions. Course attendees leave Adair’s sessions with a deeper understanding of their role as true gatekeepers of patients’ health—a notion reinforced by the growing understanding of oral hygiene’s link to overall physical well-being.
But lately, they also leave with a piece of plain advice.
“Invest in yourself, your time, and your equipment,” Adair insists. “You’ll enrich your skill set, enhance your practice’s revenue potential, and extend your career. Among other necessities, seeing with detailed clarity is a must, and loupes and lights are now a mainstay.”
Given Adair’s prolific professional successes, one would assume such wisdom flows from decades of leaning on the proper tools for her precision-centric trade. But alas, sometimes even peak performers come into full bloom a bit late.
“Two years,” Adair shares, indicating a time frame spanning just 5% of her hygienist career. “I’ve been using Ergo loupes for just 2 years.”
“COVID changed everything for me,” she continues. “Research showed hygienists were among the highest risk for work-related coronavirus transmission. So part of my motivation was keeping my distance while maintaining my professional precision.”
A Sight for Sore Gums
In 2021, Adair purchased a set of Admetec Ergo loupes from North American supplier Andau Medical. Customized to each individual wearer through a multifactor process, Admetec’s Ergo series of deflection loupes combine precision vision and exceedingly light weight, helping health care practitioners work comfortably and effectively for extended periods of time.
The through-the-lens ergonomic loupes provide a real declination angle of up to 60°, enabling an upright working position that substantially reduces stress on the head, neck, back, and shoulders. This is especially important considering, per an extensive 2016 report published by the Canadian Dental Hygienists Association, anywhere from 60% to 96% of hygienists suffer work-related musculoskeletal disorders.
When she adopted Admetec’s Ergo loupes, Adair was aware of yet blissfully unaffected by these harrowing health statistics. But what she soon learned intimately was that the loupes allowed a healthier working distance while allowing her to see better—much better.
“In our field, fractions of a millimeter count,” she attests. “We’re tasked with identifying warning signs that can be as tiny as a pinhole—and explore those issues with razor-sharp instruments.” The 3X magnification of her new loupes afforded her a confidence boost when, for example, root planing a 10-to-12-mm gum pocket, examining a fracture line in a restoration, or detecting an open margin on a crown.
Adair also deals with more than her fair share of crisis-level periodontal patients. Many have advanced gum disease that is long ignored and suddenly urgent. With these patients, precision vision is just as important as it is for identifying early-stage, still-developing dental issues such as small abscesses and budding infections.
Adair also replaced her existing headlight, which she found cumbersome, with the Admetec Butterfly—a lightweight, wireless headlight that affixes to the Ergo loupe’s bridge. She found that the logistical ease and complementary illumination further enhanced her precision and productivity.
“My Ergo loupes and Butterfly lights enable greater precision than I ever anticipated,” Adair says. “It’s to a point where I’m sometimes noticing an issue that the dentist right next to me isn’t, which heightens my value as a hygienist.” Here, she reinforces that a problem that isn’t perceived can’t be corrected—and can’t produce long-term customer satisfaction or short-term revenue goals.
But perhaps the most instantly noticeable difference in Adair’s work comes from her hands-on workshops. As she works on patients, her fellow hygienists are frequently enticed by the Butterfly headlight which, Adair jokes, “lights the mouth up like a football stadium.”
Her operatory position, made possible by the Ergo loupes, also piques her pupils’ interest. While they hunch, stretch, and strain to gain the best vantage point, Adair sits in the upright, ergonomic, healthy posture afforded by her Ergo loupes. Upon witnessing Adair deftly perform any number of complicated oral procedures with her back straight and head proudly raised, many agnostic students become fervert ergonomic converts.
In doing so, Adair is elevating far more than her head—she’s elevating her oft-denigrated profession.
“We are not just hygienists,” Adair insists. “This is not an entry-level job. It’s a career—and demands all the progress, diligence, and commitment to perpetual learning that a career requires. We play a key role in our patients’ oral and overall health, and it’s on us to perform those duties as precisely and proficiently as possible.”