The demand for dental hygienists is predicted to increase by 9% from 2021 to 2031, faster than the average of any other occupation, with 16,300 job openings projected each coming year.(1) The demand for dentists is expected to grow by 6% during the same timeframe, with a forecast of 5,100 job openings annually.(2) Recent graduates in the dental profession are typically not thinking about their retirement; however, as dental professionals, they are at a much higher risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) that could cut their careers short. MSDs are injuries to the soft tissues affecting muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, and cartilage in the upper and lower limbs, neck, and lower back. MSDs can result from repetitive motion, exertion, vibration, and awkward positioning. Whether chronic or acute, exposure to these factors can be debilitating.(3) Adrian LaTrace, CEO of Boyd Industries, observes, “The first day at work for any new graduate can be both exciting and terrifying. For new arrivals to the dental field, trying to remember all those years of academic instruction and its precise practical applications can be a bit challenging at first. However, to enjoy a long career in dentistry, proper ergonomics is one of the first things to remember and the last thing to forget.”
Work-related MSDs are an all-too-common occupational hazard throughout the healthcare industry. A research study of a cross-section of health professionals, including surgeons, physicians, and dentists, discovered that dentists had the highest rate of musculoskeletal pain at 61%, with 60% of dentists experiencing MSDs in multiple sites.(4) Research for risk factors among dental practitioners discovered that dental hygienists experience even higher rates of MSDs of the shoulders and neck than dentists.(5) Another study highlighted the prevalence of MSDs among dental hygienists while still in school, emphasizing the need for proper ergonomic training and intervention before the commencement of fieldwork.(6) If MSDs aren’t treated early and effectively, they can lead to permanent disability and adversely affect mental health.(7)
The number one reason for early retirement among dentists is musculoskeletal disorders. Mitigating the risks of all patient-centered occupations in dentistry requires a deep dive into the ergonomics of dentistry. A veteran clinical dental hygienist advises developing good ergonomic habits and techniques from the very beginning. Dental professionals should focus on proper body mechanics, optimal instrumentation stroke, and mastering indirect vision — being able to visualize each area while keeping the neck and back straight. One MSD risk factor to watch out for is correct patient seating positions that could be too low or too high.
There are preventative tools available that include ergonomically-designed sharp instruments, magnification loupes, and operator seating.(8)
The equipment in the treatment area — patient chair, lighting, cabinetry, and auxiliary tools — should be flexible and conducive to good working postures with easy access to essential dental instruments and should be adaptable to specific dental practices, clinical procedures, and patient types.(9)
Boyd Industries is a pioneer in the design and manufacture of state-of-the-art dental and medical operatory equipment. Renowned among dental specialty practices and ENT specialists, Boyd’s reputation is built on their expert craftsmanship, ergonomic design, proven durability, and reliability. From dental exam, treatment, and surgery chairs to delivery systems, exam lighting, custom clinical cabinetry, operator seating, and other office accessories, Boyd’s line of products prioritizes dependable, ergonomic, and aesthetically pleasing design that enables dental professionals to deliver the highest-quality patient care with comfort and convenience.
LaTrace remarks, “As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Recent graduates just entering the dentistry field are particularly vulnerable if they forego proper body mechanics in an effort to prove themselves early on as capable and confident. Like professional athletes, dental professionals need to protect themselves against a career-ending injury.”
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