Hand Ergonomics in Dentistry

by Patty Taylor, RN, BA

Ergonomics refers to the interaction between a human’s musculoskeletal system and his or her workspace. Studies show that various job functions performed by dental professionals expose them to risk factors for musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).

Hand Ergonomics

The Effects of Hand Fatigue
Hand fatigue is a serious work place issue. The tasks that dental professionals perform can often be tedious, repetitive and can cause strain to muscles, nerves, and tendons in their hands, wrists and arms. Additionally, when a glove is worn that restricts movement, he or she must exert more muscle effort to perform tasks, thereby increasing the risk of strain which can lead to hand fatigue and carpal tunnel syndrome. Such strain can result from glove use when the gloves are thick, rigid, slippery, ill-fitting or otherwise uncomfortable.

MSDs, such as Carpel Tunnel Syndrome and tendinitis, are leading causes of lost workday injuries and illnesses.1 In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, MSD cases accounted for 33 percent of all worker injury and illness cases in 2013.2 Study reviews indicate, that over 50% of dental professionals reported hand fatigue,3 9.2 percent of dentist have been diagnosed with some form of repetitive motion disorder4 and 65% of registered dental hygienists reported having carpal tunnel syndrome.5

Signs of MSDs include decreased grip strength and loss of coordination, decreased range of motion, and loss of normal sensation. These conditions are reported as painful and may result in loss of productivity, loss of work, medical costs, and potential l ong term complications, if untreated.6

Selecting high performing medical gloves with a certified ergonomic design is a trusted method for reducing muscle effort during repetitive tasks, improving worker performance and supporting occupational hand health. A glove that is carefully designed to deliver optimum fit ensures superior comfort and maximum range of motion. At the same time, the amount of grip a glove delivers plays a major role in the amount of muscle effort required to securely handle, hold or manipulate objects. Ultimately, innovations in sizing, formulation, material type, and texture all contribute to a softer, more comfortable, better fitting glove.

As dental professionals, your hands are your livelihood. Choosing a glove with an ergonomic certification ensures the gloves you wear are designed to help prevent MSDs, protecting your hands and your career.

 Patty Taylor is Vice President of Professional Education and Clinical Affairs for Ansell. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Western Ontario, Canada. Patty is a registered nurse with more than 20 years of international experience focusing on perioperative safety, quality and education in Canada, England and the United States. Being an active member of professional associations and networking groups for more than 30 years is a key factor in her professional growth and success.

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