In Safe Hands: Why Your Examination Gloves Matter in Dentistry

India Chance, RDH, CDIPC

April 2024 Course - Expires Friday, April 30th, 2027

Inside Dental Hygiene


Careful glove selection is critical in dental healthcare settings, especially in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Important factors to consider during glove selection include but are not limited to tensile strength, tactile sensitivity, and the absence of chemical accelerants. The implications of these factors extend to infection control, ergonomic injuries, and skin health. There are also potential benefits associated with gloves infused with plant-derivatives such as aloe vera, including enhanced tensile strength and improved skin conditions. A comprehensive exploration of these factors aims to guide dental healthcare providers in making informed decisions about glove selection, thereby improving safety and quality of care.

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Understanding the importance of safety and infection control is easy for dental healthcare providers, underscored in recent years by the seriousness of COVID-19. One essential component of infection control is the use of examination gloves, but not all gloves are created equally. Gloves are commonly produced from natural rubber, polyisoprene, acrylonitrile butadiene rubber, polychloroprene, polyethylene, and polyvinyl chloride.1 The quality of gloves matters greatly; glove material is crucial in delivering safer dentistry for the patient and the clinician.1

The importance of selecting high-quality gloves cannot be overstated. Every day, dental healthcare providers are put at risk of exposure to a host of viruses, bacteria, fungi, and more via blood, saliva droplets, and other types of exposures.2 Choosing a glove that offers superior barrier protection is essential where close contact to oral fluids is routine.

Why Gloves Matter

Some people may believe that a glove is sufficient as long as it fits properly. Unfortunately, improperly fitted gloves can still contribute to an unsafe work environment and put a clinician at risk.3 Ergonomically, the proper fit is essential to prevent musculoskeletal diseases, but the glove's other features are just as important. So how does this contribute to a safer work environment? Wearing a glove with certain features can significantly decrease the risk of injuries and increase protection for a clinician.

When exploring various glove options, ascertaining whether the glove in question is of high or low quality is important. Certain features of the glove should be examined, and a "glove check" should be conducted. Initiating this requires an understanding of several key factors to be considered at the outset.

Tensile Strength

Determining if a glove has a high or low tensile strength-defined as the resistance of a material to break under tension-is critical, as that can impact a glove's performance.4,5 Disposable nitrile exam gloves with various polymer formulations have been measured to have tensile strengths ranging from 10.8 ± 3.3 MPa to 29.4 ± 5.2 MPa.5Acrylonitrile butadiene rubber has been associated with higher strength and abrasion resistance.6

Low-quality gloves tend to have a low tensile strength, which can result in a glove easily tearing during a patient appointment. A glove with this defect can pose a risk to clinicians and patients by creating an unavoidable infection control breach. High-quality gloves are more resistant to punctures and tears, allowing the gloves to be used with less concern about them being damaged during a procedure.

Tactile Sensitivity

The role of tactile sensitivity also should be contemplated, particularly as it relates to grip strength. A firm, secure grasp on instruments is fundamental in providing safe and exceptional dental care.7 An unstable grip can significantly impact the pinch force-the force applied between the thumb and forefinger during pinching or gripping actions. Different people can exhibit various levels of accuracy and consistency in detecting changes to their pinching force.8

Low-quality gloves can contribute to inadequately handling instruments and potentially dropping them, or they can necessitate excessive gripping force, potentially causing ergonomic injuries to the clinician. A glove that features textured fingertips is considered to be of higher quality because it contributes to a more secure, stable grip on instruments, even in damp conditions.

Chemical Accelerants

Another important factor is whether a glove is accelerator-free. Gloves of this variety are devoid of chemical accelerants, which have been linked to skin sensitivities or exacerbation of existing conditions such as allergies, sensitive skin, or eczema.9 The absence of these chemical accelerants in the manufacturing process can minimize the risk of skin irritation.

Accelerator-free gloves can allow dental healthcare providers-particularly those with skin sensitivities or allergies-to perform their duties comfortably and confidently for extended periods without discomfort or itching. An accelerator-free glove can offer superior protection even to those without pre-existing skin conditions, aiding in the prevention of potential future skin issues.

Several glove brands offer accelerator-free options; however, some stand out above the rest by including plant-derivatives, such as aloe vera. Aloe vera is known to have soothing properties and inflammation-reduction capabilities that demonstrate positive effects on improving skin conditions among healthcare workers.10 Aloe vera has also been found to alleviate inflammation and irritation, promote wound healing, and enhance skin hydration.10

Additionally, plant derivatives in the form of nanocrystals such as aloe vera also contribute to increasing tensile strength, making the glove much more resistant to tear. Gloves with this feature could be very beneficial for those who necessitate frequent glove changes due to heightened exposure to harsh chemicals, regular handwashing, sanitizers, and stress. The potential is high for this glove type to help mitigate skin problems arising from frequent use and irritation, offering potentially more comfort to dental healthcare providers.


Considering these factors during the careful selection of gloves plays a pivotal role in ensuring the safety of dental healthcare providers and the quality of patient care within a clinical environment. Understanding how to conduct a "glove check" equips clinicians with more knowledge and adds another tool to being able to deliver the safest dental visit possible.

About the Author

India Chance, RDH, CDIPC

India Chance is a Registered Dental Hygienist, a Certified Infection Control Educator, an Authorized OSHA Trainer, and a Recognized HIPAA Educator. She is the Founder of Learn2Prevent, a dental compliance company that works with hundreds of dental teams across the country equipping them with tools to deliver the safest dental visit possible. She has worked on various projects with the CDC Office of Oral Health, is an Editorial Review Board member for OSAP and for Inside Dental Hygiene, and she serves as a CDC Inspector for the Maryland State Board of Dental Examiners.


1. Lovato MJ, Del Valle LJ, Puiggalí J, Franco L. Performance-enhancing materials in medical gloves.
J Funct Biomater.2023 Jun 30;14(7):349.

2. SzymaƄska J. Microbiological risk factors in dentistry. Current status of knowledge. Ann Agric Environ Med. 2005;12(2):157-163.

3.Dodamani AS, Jadhav HC, Khairnar MR, Naik RG. Dental professionals' knowledge and behavior towards utilization of gloves: a cross-sectional survey. J Prev Med Hyg. 2021 14;61(4):E636-E641.

4. Esmizadeh E, Chang BP, Jubinville D, Seto C, Ojogbo E, Tzoganakis C, Mekonnen TH. Stability of nitrile and vinyl latex gloves under repeated disinfection cycles. Materials Today Sustainability. 2021;11:100067.

5.Phalen RN, Wong WK. Integrity of disposable nitrile exam gloves exposed to simulated movement. J Occup Environ Hyg. 2011;8(5):289-299.

6.Yew GY, Tham TC, Law CL, Chu DT, Ogino C, Show PL. Emerging crosslinking techniques for glove manufacturers with improved nitrile glove properties and reduced allergic risks. Mater Today Commun. 2019;19:39-50.

7.Brunick AL, Burns S, Gross K, Tishk M, Feil P. Comparative study: the effects of latex and vinyl gloves on the tactile discrimination of first year dental hygiene students. Clin Prev Dent.1990;12(2):21-25.

8. Li L, Li Y, Jia P, Wang S, Wang W, Liu Y. Effect of pinch types on pinch force sense in healthy adults. Front Hum Neurosci. 2022;16:990431.

9.Blades AY, et al. A comparison of skin health in healthcare workers wearing accelerator-free gloves versus standard gloves. Contact Dermatitis. 2018;78(1),1-7.

10.Bauer J, et al. Aloe vera gel for the treatment of skin conditions in healthcare workers: a randomized observational study in rural Ghana. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2019;19(1):106.

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SOURCE: Inside Dental Hygiene | April 2024
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Learning Objectives:

  • Analyze the importance of features in the context of examination gloves and how they impact the delivery of safer dentistry. 
  • Formulate strategies for selecting a high-quality examination glove and assess the potential benefits, particularly for clinicians with skin sensitivities or allergies. 
  • Evaluate the role of certain features in glove selection and the influence on ergonomics and patient safety in dental practice.


DISCLOSURE: The author has no disclosures to report.

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