Emerging Ergonomic Risks To Dental Professionals

by Jennifer Hawley

Dentists have always needed to take care of their posture. Many dental procedures and surgeries involve some element where craning the neck, twisting the body, and taking unnatural posture can be encouraged. However, with a new Boston University analysis highlighting the face of modern dentistry changing to incorporate digital checkups and robot repairs, the threats that dental professionals face when it comes to their musculoskeletal health are changing. With more dentists spending time behind the screen when consulting patients and reviewing test results, the first lesson to learn comes in simple desk-bound ergonomics.

Ergonomic productivity

Ergonomics goes beyond the simple physical health of the worker. Studies have shown that good ergonomics underpin worker satisfaction and comfort; a comfortable, at-ease and correctly sat individual is going to produce better outcomes in their place of work than somebody who isn’t. Teledentistry, the process through which dentists can offer digital checkups, is likely here to stay—it saves money for the practice, enables better access to patients with disabilities, and provides a faster turnaround on testing. Doctors should be conscious of this and ensure that their home setup meets the ergonomic standard, from their work chair to the items that they use to operate their computer.

As a supporter

Even inside the clinic, dentist and dental professional roles are changing. A recent study, Robotic Applications in Orthodontics: Changing the Face of Contemporary Clinical Care, found that robots ranging from free bending arm to nanorobots are being met with promising research across the world. What a dentist is required to do to be successful in their practice is changing, and with that comes ergonomic change. Dental professionals are more likely to be sitting down, or monitoring equipment, rather than getting in and around the patient; this will reduce the types of injuries associated with unnatural movements when using instruments, but can change posture. Being vigilant to this within the workplace and changing how the practice is set up will enable dental professionals to retain correct posture wherever they are.

Recognizing crutches

Bringing ergonomic seating and such devices into the practice will help to minimize short-term issues. However, a study published by the BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders journal found that, in the long-term, the ergonomic design of workplaces had little determinative impact on whether dentists and dental professionals developed disorders. What this shows is that, even as workplaces change and the aids that can be brought in become more advanced, dental professionals need to be vigilant. Check your posture at regular times through the day, and ensure that you’re sticking to the rules. Your body will thank you for this down the line and, one day, in your retirement.

The dental profession involves a lot of unnatural movements that put the body under stresses and strains. While these movements are changing with advancements in technology, they still remain present. Tackling this challenge head-on requires a smart mix of ergonomic and habitual change, but is something that can easily be accomplished and will contribute to better quality of life and better outcomes.

About the Author

Jennifer Hawley is an occupational health therapist turned freelance writer. She has a passion for digital and health related topics and loves exploring and commenting upon the latest research. When not working, she loves to visit family in Europe, enjoys horse riding with her children and reading as much as possible.