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The Importance of Proper Ergonomics in the Dental Field



Dental school is a stressful time in an aspiring dentist’s life. From classes and clinicals to perfecting your instrumentation skills, there can be many daily pressures. One of the things that many dental students, dental hygienists, and dental assistants are not always taught is the importance of ergonomics.


When you’re dealing with a particularly difficult tooth, you may find yourself twisting and bending, but it is important that you focus on proper ergonomics to ensure your dental career lasts as long as possible.


Ergonomics and the Dental Field

In dental school, they may not put much emphasis on proper ergonomics, but it is much more important than you realize. The dental hygiene field came in at the top spot for careers that can be harmful to your spine, due to being on one's feet for long periods of time and hunching over often.


Positioning and ergonomics haven’t been a hot topic in the industry for long, but it has recently been discussed more and more. Being able to see and reach in a patient’s mouth can have you finding yourself in odd positions, but you need to be mindful of what you are doing because you can end up with a musculoskeletal disorder. An MSD is damage to either hard or soft tissue that can happen in a single incident or build up over time.


Results of an MSD

If you find that you’ve ended up with a musculoskeletal disorder, there are several outcomes that could happen. If caught early enough, there is a chance that the MSD won’t be detrimental to your career in the medical field. With physical therapy, being mindful of ergonomics, and making some changes in how you move at work, you may still be able to continue with dental hygiene.


If you don’t catch your MSD quickly enough, you could end up in a lot of pain with damage that won’t allow you to continue working as a dentist. When you combine working full time and not being proactive with ergonomics, you may end up needing to take a step away from your career.


Proactive Prevention

One of the things that you can do to prevent the occurrence of an MSD is to use an operator stool that is designed to work with your body. Many professionals have reported that a saddle chair is very comfortable and better for your body than the traditional stools many dentists and other medical professionals use.


Here are a few tips to help keep you comfortable while caring for your patients:

  • Keep your back as straight as possible; avoid bending over and leaning over the patient.

  • Instead of standing, sit down for all clinical procedures.

  • Avoid overextending your back or arms by working as close to the patient as possible.

  • Adjust your stool so that your feet can remain flat on the floor or the footrest and so that your thighs have a slight downward slope.

  • Keep your wrists in a neutral position to reduce pain.


Conclusion

Even though it may not always be taught in school, ergonomics are one of the most important things to pay attention to while practicing dentistry. By being attentive to your posture, you will avoid potential injury and allow for a long career.


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