Good ergonomics are essential when choosing dental equipment. The reason is simple. Proper ergonomics encourage healthy posture, which is critical to avoiding body strain and pain.
Here's a little something to try: Sit with your torso completely twisted. Take your right arm and move it horizontally across your body. Tilt your head to the right. Now stay this way for eight hours, while repairing a watch in your lap. That's the kind of strain dental professionals place on their bodies every day, caring for patients—strain that can cause injuries or disorders that affect how the body moves.
According to the American Dental Association, 29 percent of dental disabilities are related to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Other studies show that about 66 percent of dentists and as many as 80 percent of hygienists suffer some form of MSDs. Many describe symptoms such as aching, burning, cramping, numbness, pain, stiffness, tingling or weakness.
How productive can you be if you hurt every day? How does pain affect your family and leisure time? Fortunately, there is a way to mitigate—and in some cases eliminate—this kind of stress to the body. The first step is recognizing the five risk factors of improper dental ergonomics:
Repetition. You've likely heard of carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive stress injuries; both are the result of repeated movement. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines such movement as “repeating the same motions every few seconds, or repeating motions that involve the same body part more than twice per minute, for more than two consecutive hours.”
Force. Lifting, pushing, pulling, pinching and gripping all qualify as actions of force. This means that simply by performing daily tasks—like scaling patients' teeth—you are adding to the effects of force on your body.
Poor posture. Factors that contribute to poor posture include awkward or static positions, repeatedly raising your arms, working with the hands above the head or elbows above
shoulders, bending, and twisting the neck, back or wrists.
Contact stress. Contact stress occurs when force is concentrated on a small area of the body, pinching or crushing the tissue. Examples are the body rubbing against a component of the workstation, or being in continuous contact with hard or sharp objects such as unpadded, narrow tool handles. A suddenly applied pressure, such as compressive force, is also considered contact stress.
Ergonomically designed dental equipment can help you maintain a healthy posture and provide more efficient movement in your operatory. By allowing you to work pain-free today—and throughout your career—proper ergonomics are good for your physical, emotional and even financial health.
Get an Ergonomic Check-Up
As part of its commitment to improving dentistry, A-dec offers in-office assessments from a Certified Ergonomics Assessment Specialist (CEAS). You'll learn preventative techniques to help you and your team avoid fatigue, discomfort and injury.