This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

The Research and Design of Pediatric Dental Handpieces That Offer Reduced Apprehension for Pediatric Patients and Enhanced Ergonomics for Dentists




Reynolds, Alexander

Type of Degree



Industrial Design


10.7% of 5 to 11-year-olds are afraid of dental visits (Australian Dental Journal, 2001). Interviews with five dentists revealed that reasons for this include separation from parents, dental workers’ poor bedside manner and dental tools. While many of the fears are difficult to prevent, the fear of dental tools can be minimized through careful design of the dental handpieces (dental drills). Historically, most dental tools have been constructed using materials that tend to have a menacing appearance. The interviews of dentists revealed many elements of the dental drill that could use improvement. One dentist described the drill as having a knife-like appearance, and many of the dentists showed interest in a range of color options. Other complaints about the typical dental drills include slippery grips and the cord tugging on the back end of the drill, which throws off the balance of the tool. All of these issues are addressed later through research and design. After accomplishing preliminary research and identifying problems, further research and design are executed to find ways to solve these problems. The further research and design includes reading related books and articles, conceptualizing, building mock up models and numerous ergonomic models, using those models for ergonomic testing and finally administering surveys to collect opinions of a broad range of dentists and children. This research revealed new ways to use materials and technologies that are already used in dental equipment. With these materials and technologies it was possible to solve, or improve, the problem conditions mentioned earlier. A silicone rubber grip is used to add color while also improving the grip for dentists. Adding grooves to the grip channels water and saliva away from the gripping surface, which further improves grip for dentists. Implementing a downward bend in back end of the drill reduced the tug of the hose. A swivel ensures that the bend always points downward, no mater how the dentist holds the tool. This thesis details the redesigning of a dental drill to make the tool easier for the dentist to use and less intimidating to the pediatric patients. The approach used in this thesis is one that can be implemented for the redesign of any pediatric medical equipment.