ACE Panel survey covers technique, maintenance when using dental light-curing units

 ACE Panel report graphic
In response: The latest ACE Panel report includes responses from 353 ACE Panel member dentists in the U.S. on various questions related to dental light-curing units.

Responses about technique, eye protection and maintenance when using dental light-curing units varied in the latest American Dental Association Clinical Evaluators Panel survey published online by The Journal of the American Dental Association.

"Dental light-curing units are the second most widely used powered dental instrument in general practices behind dental handpieces," said Dr. Kevin B. Frazier, a member of the ACE Panel Oversight Subcommittee that led the development of the survey and vice dean of the Dental College of Georgia at Augusta University. "While a decline in the performance and effectiveness of handpieces is immediately obvious to the clinician, the same cannot be said for dental light-curing units without objective testing and understanding the variables involved with effective light-curing of photopolymerizable materials."

The ACE Panel report includes responses from 353 ACE Panel member dentists in the U.S. on various questions related to dental light-curing units.

"The survey questions were chosen to assess the broad spectrum of dental light-curing unit-related issues and topics, including questions about dental light-curing unit use, unit type and selection, training, maintenance, technique, and safety measures, in order to reveal areas for potential evidence-based continuing education opportunities for our member dentists to enable them to provide optimal treatment for their patients," Dr. Frazier said.

On average, 59% of dental appointments involve a light-curing unit in a typical day, according to survey responses. Regarding who holds or controls the unit the most, 54% of dentists said themselves and 46% said others.

LED multiwave units are used most widely, followed by LED blue-only units. Dentists who participated in the survey said their top four considerations when selecting a light-curing unit were portability, power, durability and cost.

The survey asked about clinical variables that would make dentists adjust their curing technique, and respondents had the option to make multiple selections. Of the variables offered, 79% of respondents chose restoration or material thickness, 59% said type of restoration or material used, 59% selected light tip to target distance, 50% chose restoration or material shade or opacity, and 13% said they use a standard approach for any clinical condition.

When light-curing units were used during procedures, 85% of respondents said the operator wore eye protection and 37% said the patient did.

The survey included questions about the type and frequency of curing unit maintenance dentists performed. Of the responding dentists, 72% said they checked the light guide tip ends and cleaned them to remove debris, 67% said they checked the light output, 32% said they checked the batteries of their cordless units, 30% said they replaced batteries demonstrating low charge capacity, and 30% said they periodically test-cured composite samples.

Out of those who checked the light output, 31% said they checked every one to six months, 19% said weekly, 11% said once per year or less, 6% said they did not know, 4% said when the unit is malfunctioning and 3% said daily.

Four out of five respondents said they read the manufacturer instructions for information on how to effectively use and maintain their curing unit.

"I was encouraged by the clinicians' appreciation for clinical variables related to materials (thickness, type, shade and distance), and enlightened by the findings that reveal opportunities to provide more practical information on equipment monitoring and ocular safety issues," Dr. Frazier said.

Because of the variation in technique, safety and maintenance responses, the report suggests dentists could benefit from additional guidance and training on light-curing unit operation.

"The survey highlights most of the important variables involved with effective dental light-curing unit use," Dr. Frazier said. "The ACE Panel report can be used as a checklist for practitioners to begin to assess their own dental light-curing unit knowledge, clinical use and maintenance practices."

Dentists can view the entire ACE Panel report online and download the PDF at An online continuing education course that covers the report is also available.

ACE Panel reports feature data from ADA member dentists who have signed up to participate in short surveys related to dental products, dental practices and other clinical topics. The ACE Panel Oversight Subcommittee of the ADA Council on Scientific Affairs writes the reports with ADA Science & Research Institute staff.

The reports aim to offer ADA members a way to understand their peers' opinions on various dental products and practices, offering insight and awareness on new products and techniques that can benefit patients and the profession.

Members are invited to join the ACE Panel and contribute to upcoming surveys, which occur no more than once every few months and usually take five to 10 minutes to complete.

To learn more or join the ACE Panel, visit