How to Choose Properly Fitting Exam Gloves


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Carefully selecting properly fitting examination gloves is critical. The wrong gloves lead to serious problems for health care providers, including:
Contact dermatitis and latex hypersensitivity,
Decreased tactile sensitivity,
Hand fatigue,
Poor grip,
Carpal tunnel syndrome,
and Sweaty hands. Learn how to evaluate the fit and avoid expensive health problems.

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How to Choose Properly Fitting Exam Gloves

  1. 1. How to choose the right gloves for you and your teamBy Monica F. Anderson, D.D.S.July 19, 2011 -- Many of us spend more time contemplating the dessert menu at restaurants thanchoosing our medical gloves for critical barrier protection. Thats understandable considering theoverwhelming number of options available. One purchasing guide I reviewed listed 22 differenttypes in their glove line, ranging in price from $6.95 to $13.50 a box.Warning: The short-term savings are not worth the long-term harm of an improper fit. The wronggloves lead to serious problems for healthcare providers, including the following: • Contact dermatitis and latex hypersensitivity • Decreased tactile sensitivity • Hand fatigue • Poor grip • Carpal tunnel syndrome • Sweaty handsFinding the right gloves for your team is challenging. Like apparel, theres no standardization inthe industry, and ordering 12 brands in various sizes is impractical. Dental practices are slowlyfollowing the lead of hospitals in switching from traditional latex gloves to latex-free alternativesdue to a dramatic increase in latex hypersensitivity among patients and providers.Trial and errorOur dental office went nonlatex last year after a long process of trial and error to find the perfectgloves. Many factors need to be consider beyond latex versus synthetic, including textured gripor smooth, powder or powder-free, cuff length, thickness, and fit.To save time and money, enlist the aid of your supply representative to order free assortmentpackages for evaluation. We used these samples over several days for exams and simpleprocedures, which was much more revealing than just donning them in a nonclinical setting.
  2. 2. The main reasons our team rejected a glove was "too thick or "too tight." The thicker glovescaused some of our teams hands to sweat more than usual, despite the presence of powder. Themoisture and heat become a breeding ground for bacteria, as does the exposed area of your wristswhen rolled or short cuffs leave skin exposed.Anne Nugent Guignon, RDH, MPH, writes and lectures extensively on ergonomics andhypersensitivity. In a column for RDH Magazine, Guignon reported that "thin gloves improvetactile sensitivity. Thick gloves increase hand fatigue and reduce gripping power." More than51% of the respondents in a Web survey she conducted reported hand fatigue from poorly fittinggloves.Also, when we perceive a loss of sensitivity, we naturally grip the instrument more firmly. Thatleads to unnecessary stress of the tendons, contributing to hand strain. A cross-sectional clinicalstudy of carpal tunnel syndrome used electro diagnostic criteria to measure the prevalence of thecondition in dentists (Journal of the American Dental Association, February 2001, Vol. 132:2,pp. 163-170). They concluded that there is a higher rate of hand and finger pain symptomsamong dentists than among the general population. Among their recommendations to decreasethe risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome: fitted gloves that reduce hand tension.One size does not fit allLike blue jeans, one size does not fit all, and there is no standardization in the glove industry.One companys medium is another companys small. Ambidextrous gloves are favored over moreexpensive hand-specific gloves by most general dentists. Nonspecific gloves fit either handbecause they are made from a model with the thumb in a flat position.Thats convenient but unnatural. The more effort it takes to put your thumb opposite your fingersto grip an instrument, the more strain on your muscles. I found that by slowly making a fist Icould actually feel the amount of pressure it took to curve my fingers, and it varied considerablyfrom one type to the next. Textured fingertips help the grip but dont eliminate the negativeaspect of pullback from the material.In her RDH Magazine article, Guignon lists other factors to consider when selecting gloves. "Ifthe glove is too short to fit the fingers or too tight across the palm, flexibility and freedom ofmovement are compromised," she wrote. "Conversely, a glove that is too big in any of thesedimensions feels clumsy and uncomfortable, and can reduce clinical efficiency andeffectiveness."Change is not easy whenever we introduce a new material or product into our practice. EnsyAtarod, DDS, a general dentist in Austin, TX, said she found changing from latex gloves tonitrile "hard.""At first I felt like I didnt have as much sensitivity, and the gloves were looser," she said. "Nowthey dont feel strange, but it took two months for me to feel 100% comfortable."
  3. 3. Effectiveness and avoiding repetitive strain injuries are the ultimate goals when choosing glovesfor your office. Consider having a few boxes of surgical gloves for longer procedures and usingless expensive -- but carefully selected -- ambidextrous gloves for shorter procedures to savemoney.Hands down, a better fit now means you can easily grip that dessert fork later.Monica "Dr. mOe" Anderson, DDS, is a general dentist, writer, and motivational speaker inAustin, TX.Copyright © 2011