Let’s talk ergonomicsNews
Posted by: The Probe 2nd May 2020
It’s no understatement to say that dentistry is a mentally and physically demanding profession. The brain power involved is obvious – every case needs careful consideration; treatment needs to be planned and professionals need to always keep at the cutting-edge of any clinical advancements. But what about the physical side?
Yes, dentists and other DCPs aren’t running marathons every day, but that doesn’t mean that working in a busy practice isn’t having a negative impact on their bodies. That’s where ergonomics come in – with just a few considerations, professionals can avoid the risk of incurring any injuries related to daily working life.
Injuries in practice
It’s not uncommon for dentists to find themselves leaning over patients and twisting their bodies into awkward positions during the course of the day. Indeed, trying to get good access to a patient’s mouth can require some pretty spectacular contortions, and this very quickly takes its toll on the body. Muscle pain, strain injuries – these can fast become a reality, and are more common than you would expect.
In fact, according to one study that examined work related injuries among dental surgeons, it was found that 6.6% of these individuals experienced constant shoulder pain, 83.3% sometimes experienced back pain and 70% sometimes experienced neck pain. Interestingly, the study also revealed a strong correlation between these pains and the number of patients dental professionals were treating each day. The bigger the patient list, the higher chances of developing back and/or neck pain.[i]
Another common injury that dentists experience is wrist and/or thumb pain. This is usually because providing dental treatment means holding instruments for extended periods of time, often applying pressure that requires muscular force. Over time, this sort of action can lead to problems such as de Quervain’s disease and osteoarthritis.[ii]
Evidently, these conditions are something that shouldn’t be ignored. Many of these muscle related injuries are difficult to treat, and, if they progress enough, may require surgery to fix – not only meaning that you will need to take time off work, but also that your practice may lose business as patients will have to go elsewhere for the care that they need. These injuries can also be the kiss of death for your career – almost a third of dentists who retire early have had to do so because of musculoskeletal disorders, which, arguably, could have been prevented.[iii]
So, how can ergonomics make a difference? Ergonomics, in a nut shell, is effectively adapting the work environment to increase efficiency and productivity while also decreasing discomfort. This means that by thinking ergonomically, professionals can easily make changes in order to prevent any injuries occurring, streamlining workflows and creating additional benefits at the same time. This can be achieved in a number of ways.
Proper posture and positioning
It’s amazing how much of an impact proper posture can have, especially when people have to sit or stand for long periods of time. The key is to keep the body in a neutral position for as long as possible throughout the day.
This means maintaining an erect posture, sitting for clinical procedures where possible, working closely to the patient to avoid stretching and strains, and keeping feet flat on the floor or on a foot rest when sitting. These small measures can make a huge difference and help centralise weight distribution throughout the body. It’s also a good idea to try to minimise wrist movements and to maintain a neutral position in order to prevent strains.[iv]
Proper patient positioning is also paramount. If your dental chair is positioned at an awkward angle and you have to lean too much or bend into strange positions to provide treatment, try adjusting the chair. Don’t be afraid to readjust the patient if necessary – it’s far more important that you get them in the correct position to treat them than to hurt yourself in fear of causing mild inconvenience.
Instruments and technology
The instruments professionals use and the technology in the practice are also influential when it comes to avoiding injuries. Choosing instruments with larger handles or with textured grips is a good way to reduce the amount of force you need to apply when using them, reducing the chances of injury.
Do you have any technology in your practice that is difficult to use? What about an intraoral scanner that is difficult to grip and manoeuvre? Much like instruments, selecting technology that doesn’t require any awkward positions to operate is key.
The new CS 3700 intraoral scanner is ideal for dentists who want an ergonomic option. Designed with an ergonomically optimal grip channel to empower professionals with a better sense of scanner control, the CS 3700 also boasts superior functionality, offering ultimate versatility and accuracy alongside shade match technology to help facilitate optimal outcomes.
Care for yourself as well as your patients
Dentistry is centred around care, but that doesn’t mean you should only focus on the needs of your patients. By optimising your posture and positioning, as well as investing in technology and instruments that aid ergonomics, you can help prevent musculoskeletal disorders and strain injuries from occurring.
For more information, contact Carestream Dental on 0800 169 9692 or
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[i] Shaik, A., Rao, S., Husain, A., D’sa, J. Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders Among Dental Surgeons: A Pilot Study. Contemp Clin Dent. 2011 Oct-Dec; 2(4): 308–312.
[ii] Posturedontics. Wrist Pain Among Dental Professionals. https://posturedontics.com/identifying-your-wrist-pain-in-dentistry/ [Last accesses January 2020].
[iii] Burke, FJ., Main, JR., Freeman, R. The Practice of Dentistry: An Assessment Of Reasons For Premature Retirement. Br Dent J. 1997; 182: 250-254.
[iv] Hu-Friedy. Ergonomics in the Dental Office. Link: https://www.hu-friedy.com/blog/dental-office-ergonomics [Last accessed January 2020].
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