Hand Function Evaluation for Dental Hygiene Students

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Purpose: Dental hygiene students may struggle with hand function performance during their training. Currently, there is no universal aspect of dental hygiene programs that screens for hand function issues, nor is there a protocol in place to help students who lack needed hand function skills. The purpose of this study was to examine whether hand function could improve with specific hand function exercises and whether any improvement would be evident in higher instrumentation scores as a result of hand function exercises. Methods: A convenience sample of 20 dental hygiene students consented to participate in this 6-week pilot study. At the start of the study, an occupational therapist tested the hand function of the participants using 4 occupational therapy evaluations, which tested the students’ dexterity, motor skills, and pinch and grip strength. The results were recorded, and the students began a focused, 6-week hand function exercise regimen. After 6 weeks the same 4 evaluations were performed and the pre- and post-test data were compared using both a dependent t-test and a simple ANOVA test. Results: Results revealed significant improvement in assessed hand function following the test exercises. Scores measuring the use of a periodontal probe and 11/12 explorer when compared to student scores from the previous 5 years showed no significant differences. Of the 20 students enrolled in the study, 3 students dropped out leaving 17 to complete the study. Conclusions: This study demonstrated that 6 weeks of specific hand exercises improved students’ hand function scores. However, this raised level of hand function did not carry over to increased instrumentation proficiency.

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