Reduce the Risks of Back Pain through Dentistry Ergonomics
How do you promote and protect the physical well-being of your dental team?
Dental hygienists commonly complain about neck pain. Dental surgeons persistently experience back pain. Most dental practitioners frequently report lower back problems. Is your dental team free from musculoskeletal health hazards?
The high prevalence of musculoskeletal problems is backed by research studies administered among dental professionals worldwide. Their findings are not surprising. Dental workers endure long periods of poor posture and seating position as they provide oral healthcare to patients, which gradually increases their risk of developing back pain and other MSDs.
Musculoskeletal Disorders or MSDs is the general term for disabilities of the back (upper and lower), feet, hips, knees, legs, neck, shoulders and wrists. If dental workers keep ignoring ergonomic advice from orthopaedic surgeons, physical therapists and health and safety executives (HSE), mild discomfort from backache might progress to debilitating musculoskeletal diseases.
Researchers recommend two effective ways of decreasing the risk of MSDs among dentists, hygienists and assistants:
(1) Raising the dental team’s awareness of the risk factors, and
(2) Intervention programs such as dentistry ergonomics seminars and HSE assessment of the dental clinic
The American Dental Association has also released a few guidelines to minimize common occupational hazards related to dentistry. Here are useful hints every dental practitioner may adapt while performing dental procedures:
(1) Maintain proper posture.
(2) Minimize elevation of the shoulders – keep them relaxed and in a neutral position.
(3) Opt for a chair with arm support where you can rest your arms during fine, precision work.
(4) When possible, work areas should be 1 to 2 inches below the elbow.
(5) Place the instruments according to the sequence in which they will be used.
(6) Take short, frequent breaks for relaxation and stretching to prevent fatigue and muscle strain.
(7) Minimize motions that need trunk rotation.
(8) Apply motion economy – body motions that require the least amount of time and movement
(9) Schedule long operations or treatments on separate days.
(10) Use smooth, continuous motions – avoid zigzag motions.
(11) Choose a seat that has good body support – made of a rigid cast frame, has casters and wheels, and is 25% wider than the breadth of the butt.
If you find it difficult to remember these tips, these succinct ergonomics principles might help you:
- Aim for properly positioned dental team and patient.
- Fully utilize your assistants.
- Organize your work space – rearrange workstations if possible.
- Simplify work by practicing motion economy.
Four-Handed Dentistry has also published some useful guidelines that clarify ergonomic concepts and practices. It is available online for free. Training your team on the proper application of its principles will help improve their productivity and most importantly, promote their safety.
About Pitts Street Dental Centre:
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