Your health is just as important!

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  Posted by: The Probe      7th November 2019

Dentistry is a caring profession that requires professionals to do their best in helping others to stay happy and healthy. Everything you do in practice is centred around your patients, from how you speak to what you wear and what your surgery looks like. You will spend your day assessing your patients’ oral and general health needs, offering advice tailored specifically to them to help improve their routines for enhanced wellbeing.

But when was the last time you assessed your own daily life to see if you are looking after yourself?

Physical health risks

There are a number of occupational related health issues in dentistry. While some have been reduced thanks to improved ergonomics, new technologies and better understanding of the risk factors involved, many professionals still suffer.

Musculoskeletal disorders are rife among the dental profession. They are likely the most commonly reported health problem and they affect many members of the team. Among dentists, prevalence of symptoms range between 64% and 93%.[i] Up to 96% of dental hygienists have reported being in pain in some surveys as well.[ii] The long-term consequences of musculoskeletal disorders can be far reaching. One study found these conditions to be the most common reason for ill health retirement among dentists.[iii]

Needlestick injuries are also common. A survey conducted by the British Association of Dental Nurses (BADN) in 2017 found that 48% of respondents had experienced a needlestick injury.[iv] Such injuries are dangerous because they present a risk of infection with blood-borne diseases like Hepatitis B and C, and HIV. While confirmed viral transmission in the UK is rare among healthcare professionals,[v] the importance of minimising the risks remains high.

There is also some evidence to suggest that healthcare professionals have a higher risk of dermatitis than other industries.[vi] Prevalence is estimated to be between 15% and 33% of dental personnel,[vii] usually resulting from the constant wearing of gloves.

Mental health risks

While the physical health risks are important to consider, so too are the psychological risks.

Stress is a significant problem in modern dentistry. A survey by the British Dental Association (BDA) suggested that over 50% of dentists were highly stressed at work.[viii] High levels of both extreme stress and burnout have been reported among GDPs in particular.[ix] The same report linked high stress levels with lower life satisfaction, higher anxiety and reduced happiness. Anecdotally, we also often here of the pressure that dental hygienists and therapists regularly face.

Minimising the risks

Clearly the risk of health concerns is high among dental professionals, which highlights the importance of looking after yourself. There are a number of ways in which to do this.

Addressing physical health problems could be as easy as working less hours, seeing fewer patients or being more organised. Doing more physical exercise or joining a local club that you’re interested in will also help to re-establish a better work-life balance.

In the practice, tackling health issues usually involves a change in the working environment. For example, you could improve ergonomics within the surgery in order to reduce the impact of potential musculoskeletal disorders. This might mean rearranging the practice to encourage a more streamlined workflow. It might mean investing in new dental units that bring all routine instruments within easy reach for less stretching and straining of the body. Alternatively, it might require something as simple as purchasing new dental stools that facilitate improved posture for all members of the team.

For more ideas on how you could enhance ergonomics in your surgery and what equipment or technologies would be suitable for you, don’t miss the British Dental Conference and Dentistry Show 2020. More than 400 manufacturers and suppliers will be in attendance to demonstrate the latest solutions on the market designed to make your working life easier and healthier.

The event could also help to reduce stress levels. First, it will introduce you to new ideas and concepts that could make clinical treatment simpler and more successful. Second, the conference will be the perfect opportunity to get out of the practice environment for a couple of days and enjoy some time with friends and colleagues, so you can unwind while developing your skills. There may even be some hints and tips provided within the lectures to help you tackle stress at its source when you return to practice on Monday morning.

Look after yourself

Finding ways to reduce your risk of occupational health complications is important for all dental professionals. Being the best version of yourself will likely help you deliver a higher standard of care to your patients and generally improve your quality of life. Your health is important, so don’t forget to put yourself first every once in a while!

 

The British Dental Conference and Dentistry Show 2020 – 15th and 16th May –Birmingham NEC, co-located with DTS.

 

For all the latest information, visit www.thedentistryshow.co.uk, call 020 7348 5270 or email dentistry@closerstillmedia.com

 

References

[i] Hayes M, Cockrell D, Smith DR. A systematic review of musculoskeletal disorders among dental professionals. Int J Dent Hyg. 2009 Aug;7(3):159-65. doi: 10.1111/j.1601-5037.2009.00395.x.

[ii] Hayes MJ, Smith DR, Cockrell D. An international review of musculoskeletal disorders in the dental hygiene profession. Int Dent J. 2010 Oct;60(5):343-52.

[iii] Brown J, Burke FJT, Macdonald EB, Gilmour H, Hill KB, Morris AJ, White DA, Muirhead EK, Murray K. Dental practitioenrs and ill health retirement: causes, outcomes and re-employment. British Dental Journal. September 2010. 209. E7. 10.1038/sj.bdj.2010.813.

[iv] BADN / Initial Medical needlestick injury survey 2017.

[v] Elder A, Paterson C. Sharps injuries in UK health care: a review of in jury rates, viral transmission and potential efficacy of safety protocols. Occupational Medicine. December 2006; 56 (8); 566–574, doi.org/10.1093/occmed/kql122

[vi] Crawford JO, Shafir A, Graveling R, Dixon K, Cowie, H. A systematic review of the health of health practitioners. Review carried out for the Department of Health, National Clinical Assessment Service. IOM. Strategic Consulting Report: 603-00525. June 2009

[vii] Leggat PA, Kedjarune U, Smith DR. Occupational health problems in modern dentistry: a review. Industrial health. 2007; 45(5); 611-621

[viii] Colin V, Toon M, O’Selmo E, Reynolds L, Whitehead P. A survey of stress, burnout and wellbeing- in UK dentists. British Dental Journal. January 2019; 226(1): 7

 

[ix] Collin V, Toom M, O’Selmo E, Reynolds L, Whitehead P. A survey of stress, bunout and well-being in UK dentists. British Dental Journal. January 2019. 226(1); 40-49


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