Ergonomics is a critical and often-overlooked part of dentistry. Few people outside the profession realize the extent of the physical strain involved in performing dental work, even for hygienists who only work part-time. Dentists and dental hygienists should take steps to make their workplace as ergonomic as possible. Here are a few ways to get started.
Why Ergonomics Matter in Dentistry
Dentists and hygienists work on their feet for hours each day, usually in an awkward posture, and perform highly controlled and repetitive movements. These factors combine to create a perfect storm for musculoskeletal injuries. Not only does this lead to short-term loss of productivity (when staff must take time off to recuperate), but it can even lead to long-term issues that can cut a hygienist’s career short.
Researchers have found that almost 93% of dental workers experience at least some work-related aches or pains, and this discomfort appears primarily in the wrists and hands, but also in the neck, upper and lower back, and shoulders.
Fortunately, there are ways hygienists can make their work environment safer and more comfortable.
Creating an Ergonomic Environment
- Review material on ergonomics in dental practices. Most dentists obtain at least some education on preventing musculoskeletal issues during their education, but the same is not true of hygienists in all parts of the world. If you are approaching the topic for the first time, start by reviewing material prepared by reliable organizations like the American Dental Association and the Canadian Dental Association. Your state or province’s professional association may also have useful resources.
- Take frequent breaks to perform stretches and exercises. While hygienists often find themselves in a very busy work environment, it’s critically important to stop and stretch your joints and muscles throughout the day. This is a key part of preventing injuries.
- Use ergonomic dental tools. Advances in medical technology and ergonomics have gone hand-in-hand, and many manufacturers, like Sable Industries, now produce tools that are designed to minimize the negative impact the devices can have on their users. Click on this for more information.