Patti Peters-Sittner, RDH
“Turn your head right a little.” “Now turn a little to the left.” “Can you bring your chin down some?” “Now I need you to bring your chin up.”
Have you ever wondered why during a dental visit you find yourself maneuvering your head and neck around so much? It’s all because of ergonomics.
What is ergonomics?
According to Merriam-Webster, “ergonomics is an applied science concerned with designing and arranging things people use so that the people and things interact most efficiently and safely”.
You are probably wondering, why do I need to know this when I go to the dentist? Poor ergonomics can lead to musculoskeletal disorders.
What is a musculoskeletal disorder (MSDs)?
Contemporary Clinical Dentistry states musculoskeletal disorders are disorders of the muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, cartilage, or spinal discs which can also be work-related. Examples of MSDs from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are: carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, rotator cuff injuries (affects the shoulder), epicondylitis (affects the elbow), trigger finger; and muscle strains and low back injuries which are very common in the dental profession.
How do work-related musculoskeletal disorders occur?
The International Journal of Clinical Pediatric Dentistry states work-related musculoskeletal disorders occur in jobs that “require repetitive, forceful or prolonged exertions of the hands; frequent or heavy lifting, pushing or pulling, or carrying of heavy objects and prolonged awkward postures”. Now you might putting two and two together on how this relates to your favorite dentist, hygienist, dental assistant or front office staff at Alameda Dental Care. When your clinician is asking you to turn your head in a different direction, it helps us with proper ergonomics in order to avoid awkward positions and potential work-related MSDs. Musculoskeletal disorders don’t just affect dental professionals, OSHA lists professions in industries such as construction, food processing, firefighting, office jobs, healthcare, transportation, and warehousing all as professions with higher-risk for MSDs. Did you know that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says work-related MSDS are the most frequently reported causes of lost or restricted work time?
What can I do to improve my ergonomics and prevent potential musculoskeletal disorders?
The answer is simple: clean between your teeth daily with floss and brush at least twice a day for two minutes with an electric toothbrush! Okay, so that’s not the real answer but it would be great if you started or continued those healthy habits to maintain a healthier mouth which leads to a heathier you. Here are a few tips from Safety & Health magazine to help avoid ergonomic issues and keep your body working smoothly:
1) Ensure your chair is adjusted properly (whether it is work or home), feet should be touching the ground and make sure there is lower back support as well as arm support
2) Keep items you use regularly close by to avoid stretching unnecessarily
3) Position your wrist so that it is straight when typing on a computer
4) Avoid cradling your phone between your neck and shoulder, use a headset or speaker-phone instead
5) Pay attention to posture and like your momma said “don’t slouch and stand up straight”
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