OBJECTIVE--To evaluate early neuropathy in dental personnel exposed to high frequency vibrations. METHODS--30 dentists and 30 dental hygienists who used low and high speed hand pieces and ultrasonic scalers were studied, and 30 dental assistants and 30 medical nurses not exposed to vibration (all women). Vibrotactile sensibility, strength, motor performance, sensorineural symptoms and signs, and vascular symptoms in the hands, as well as mercury concentrations in biological samples and cervicobrachial symptoms, were studied. RESULTS--The two groups exposed to vibration had significant impairments of vibrotactile sensibility, strength, and motor performance, as well as more frequent sensorineural symptoms. In the dentists there were significant associations between the vibrotactile sensibility and strength, motor performance, superficial sensibility, and sensorineural symptoms. There were no associations between these findings and cervicobrachial symptoms, mercury concentrations, or smoking. There was no increase of vascular symptoms of the hands in the groups exposed to vibration. CONCLUSION--Dental hygienists and dentists had a slight neuropathy, which may be associated with their exposure to high frequency vibrations, and which may be detrimental to their work performance. Thus, development of safer equipment is urgent.
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