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A professional approach to the complex task of optical dispensing will optimise patient outcomes.


Murray O’Brien

A quick guide to facial fitting
Helping a client choose a spectacle frame sounds like a simple job at first but the complexity of the task is generally underrated by the uninitiated. There are a myriad of criteria which must be fulfilled in order to end up with more than a ‘just adequate’ result.

To stay ahead of the pack, independent dispensing optometrists and optical dispensers need to be particularly switched on when it comes to this part of service delivery.

Why do so many qualified optical dispensers, and for that matter optometrists, talk to their patients about ‘plastic’ frames and ‘plastic’ lenses?

Here is a very brief guide on how to attack the task.

1. It is essential to understand the prescription details first and the tasks the lenses will be used for. Find out what the lens will look like. Are they minus, plus, high minus, high plus? What are the cylinder powers, cylinder axes? Will the lenses be progressive, single vision, near, distance, grind or stock?

2. Talk with the client about their lifestyle and occupation. Find out how the glasses will be used and try to get some idea for their tastes at this point, if they have any.

3. Assess the client’s head size and facial features. This is incredibly variable and the most important aspect in finding a frame that is going to look good and be functional. This step also involves checking the shape of the client’s nose. I look at the bridge height as well as the width and begin my search for the right frame from there. Maybe measure their P.D. at this point to get a better idea of their width.

4. Take control of the process and know your stock really well. If you let the client try to choose independently, sometimes they will get it right, but more often than not they will fail in getting some important technical aspect right. So scour the shelves for the frames that you think will suit and take them to the client.

5. Once you’ve found a selection that fits well and will be suitable for the prescription, then the client can have more input on their preferences regarding colour, style, price and possibly even brand.

Talking to and learning from your frame vendors about frame details such as materials used, country of manufacture, finishing techniques, coating technology, structural and engineering aspects are also very helpful in informing the client and guiding them to make the best decision.

Would you like to join our association?
ADOA is for all qualified optical dispensers, both employed and self-employed, whether or not the store is independent, corporate or a franchise.

If you have an interest in joining our association, please call our Victoria secretariat, Don Blanksby. Phone us on (AUS) 03 9536 3127 or check the website at www.adoa.org.au.

Murray O’Brien is the President of ADOA Victoria.


Martin Kocbek

Recently TAFE management and head teacher of optical dispensing James Gibbon, hosted a night to officially open the new optical dispensing premises at the Randwick campus. Present were representatives from ADOA, ODMA, the Optical Dispensing Trust, TAFE plus past and present students.

The new facility is state-of-the-art with the main class room set out as a simulated store to enable students to learn in an environment that more closely resembles their work place. Another room is set up as a fitting lab and a third room is a dedicated lecture room. With the new premises now up and running, it is full steam ahead.

The first intake of students is full with a second intake almost filled to capacity.

The move to the Randwick campus and the new premises have helped inject new life into the teaching of optical dispensing and ADOA will be working together with TAFE to ensure the future instruction of optical dispensing will be of the highest standard.

On another note, but in line with keeping optical dispensing standards high, I ask you this question. Why do so many qualified optical dispensers, and for that matter optometrists, talk to their patients about ‘plastic’ frames and ‘plastic’ lenses? As a qualified optical dispenser you didn’t put in two to two and a half years of training to refer to the products you recommend as things made of simple plastic. It sounds so cheap and your patient wouldn’t know the difference between the plastic used to make a child’s toy and the plastic-polymer used to make ophthalmic lenses.

Although lenses are made of a plastic-polymer I was taught to refer to a plastic-polymer lens as a resin lens. It just sounds so much more professional. Especially when you are recommending a high index progressive resin lens that will cost the patient around AU$600. I’m not suggesting we should all use the term ‘resin’ but I’m sure there is a better word to describe the quality product you are about to sell to your patient other than ‘plastic’.

As for frames, if you are dispensing toy grade plastic frames to your patients you are only asking for trouble. Find out from your frame representative what material their frames are made from and use those material descriptions when talking to your patient about the options available. Using correct terminology for material properties will make you more of a professional in your patients’ eyes.

Here is a description of some of the materials used to make quality frames:

Cellulose acetate and proprinate are the most widely used plastics to create spectacle frames. These materials are available in an almost infinite range of colours, from the layered colour combinations (laminates) to solid colours. The material is also perfect for cutting and shaping to create intricate shapes and creative styling;

  • SPX, a plastic made famous by Silhouette, is the lightest plastic used for spectacle frames. SPX is extremely strong, hypo-non-allergenic and, due to its high resistance to perspiration absorption, retains its colour and lustre particularly well;
  • Optyl is an extremely light and durable, high quality plastic. Optyl is available in a vast array of both solid and translucent colours. Optyl resists perspiration as well as retaining its shape extremely well;
  • Nylon is still occasionally used. Nylon is strong, lightweight and flexible, but it can become brittle with age. For this reason, it has for the most part been replaced by nylon blends-polyamides, copolyamides and gliamides, all of which are more durable.

Martin Kocbek is the President of ADOA NSW.