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How to avoid strain, musculoskeletal issues in dental practice


Thu. 17 August 2023


The demands of patient care frequently lead to strain and musculoskeletal problems among dental professionals, which can potentially impact their careers and even result in early retirement. The solution to these challenges lies in rectifying posture during patient treatments to prevent strain and musculoskeletal issues, ensuring safer and more effective work practices.

The nature of dental work necessitates maintaining static postures for prolonged periods, which can lead to discomfort and musculoskeletal problems. This is particularly evident during clinical procedures, where leaning forward and rotating our head, neck, and trunk are common. These awkward postures can lead to physical strain and an increased risk of injury.

The widely used 10 o'clock position can result in discomfort and pain in the shoulder, arm, and hand muscles. This is due to the need to raise the arms above the patient's head and lean to one side. Opting for the 12 o'clock position, which avoids elevated arms and allows for a comfortable alignment with the patient's head, can significantly alleviate these problems. Notably, the 11-12 o'clock position supports 70 percent of dental procedures, making it an optimal choice.

Sitting on a flat seat pan with thighs parallel to the floor flattens the natural curve of the lower back and tilts the pelvis backward. This can have adverse effects on the spinal musculature and discs. To reduce muscle strain, disc pressure, and lower back pain, it is recommended to position the hips higher than the knees. Adjusting the operator stool to a higher level, with a steeper downward slope of the thighs, helps maintain the natural curvature of the lower back.

Maintaining a forward head posture of more than 20 degrees can lead to significant neck pain. However, through-the-lens (TTL) loupes can hinder maintaining a safe head posture. Long-barrel scopes attached to TTL frames can also exacerbate pressure on the cervical spine. Dentists should opt for suitable loupes to maintain an optimal head posture angle of less than 20 degrees, effectively reducing neck pain and dysfunction.

The importance of posture in dentistry cannot be overstated. Dental ergonomics underscores the need to maintain a natural and comfortable posture to prevent musculoskeletal issues. This not only benefits the well-being of dental professionals but also enhances patient-friendly treatment, efficiency and accuracy.

To ensure optimal dental posture when treating patients, it's essential to follow these guidelines. Begin by positioning the patient's head at an angle of 60-90 degrees. Maintain your arms in a neutral position and adjust your chair to achieve both comfort and proper posture. Sit in close proximity to the patient, with both feet flat on the ground and the upper part of your thigh slightly bent. Keep your back straight and your shoulders level. Sitting at the edge of your seat can help promote good posture, and don't hesitate to maneuver around the patient's head for improved views of the oral cavity. Experiment with various positions to access different angles within the oral cavity, and make certain that the assistant's chair is approximately 10 centimeters higher than the operator's chair.

For sustaining consistent and effective dental posture, consider the following tips. Maintain an upright sitting position to prevent strain on the neck and back, while keeping your feet flat on the ground for stability. Keep your shoulders relaxed and uphold an even posture. Adjust your computer screen to eye level to avoid straining your neck. Regularly take breaks to stretch and prevent stiffness, and opt for a chair that provides sufficient back support.

During phone calls, use a headset to avoid tilting your head, and refrain from cradling the phone between your ear and shoulder. Moreover, support your lower back with a pillow or cushion while seated to ensure ongoing comfort and proper alignment.

Prioritising correct posture is crucial for dental professionals to ensure longevity of career and avoid musculoskeletal issues. By following these guidelines and adopting ergonomic practices, we can create a safer and more efficient working environment, benefiting both ourselves and our patients.

Maintaining good dental posture not only safeguards the dentists’ physical well-being but also enhances their capacity to provide high-quality care and achieve treatment precision.


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