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The Worst Positions for Dentists' Musculoskeletal Health

Ergonomics has become a buzzword in dentistry in recent years, and for good reason. One of the main causes of the prevalent muscular imbalances and problems among dental care providers are the awkward positions and repetitive movements that remain an inherent part of providing care to patients. Continue below to find out which activities are the most harmful and what you can do to prevent symptoms.
Mary Ellen Cagnassola
PUBLISHED: Thursday, July 20, 2017

Changing positions frequently is one way to combat damage to your musculoskeletal system.

Awkwardness in dentistry, according to a new study, goes far beyond dealing with difficult patients.
 
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“Awkward positions are a major part of a dentists’ work,” said the study's authors. “This mainly pertains to static positions of the trunk and head in contrast to ‘office work.’”
 
Researchers published the findings of the 2017 study in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, where they detail the results of posture analysis via the computer-assisted acquisition and long-term analysis of musculoskeletal loads (CUELA) method. Using this data, the study’s authors not only confirmed that static and ergonomically incorrect positions are the cause of musculoskeletal disorders in dentists but quantified which activities and angles are the most unfavorable.
 
Treatment

The treatment category encompasses measurement conducted during 10 common activities performed during exams and procedures. Of the 10 different angles measured, the following activities yielded the highest static percentages (greater than or equal to four seconds), suggesting they may have the most impact on back and neck pain.
 
·Handicraft activities
·Screening
·Contra-angle/ultrasonic hand piece use
 
“These awkward postures result in static overexertion of the musculature which can lead to musculoskeletal disorders,” the researchers concluded. “Accordingly, many dental tasks present a potential hazard to the musculoskeletal system, such as prolonged bending or twisting of the trunk or sitting in a predefined uninterrupted fixed posture.”
 
Office work and other activities

The second set of data focuses on activities relating to general around-the-office tasks and activities like walking, conversing and hygiene. While these tasks showed fewer instances of constrained posture that can lead to poor musculoskeletal health, the 10 angles measured showed the following positions are most harmful.
 
·Office work (general)
·Reading patient files
·Taking and depositing instruments
 
How can I prevent musculoskeletal damage?
 
Overall, the greater angle values of head and cervical spine area suggest that treatment-related tasks show a higher percentage of forced postures. Treatment activities are also, for the most part, more of a strain on the head area than the trunk area. Contrarily, office work and other activities, on the other hand, affect the trunk area more than the head area.
 
“It has to be considered that such breaks in-between working would relieve the strain on the spine. Dentists who have a well-trained muscular system can use these short breaks to recover and are therefore pain-free,” the researchers said.
 
As such, the study advises that dentists change their seating position frequently to decrease static postures and optimize office work to prevent rotations in office task-related positions. Relaxation exercises for the musculoskeletal system are especially helpful for the cervical spine and could prevent pain. A prior study conducted in India concludes that use of a Bambach Saddle Seat optimises posture and can reduce work-related pain.
 
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