Ergonomics, Dental work, and You

Ergonomics, Dental work, and You

It's no secret that chronic pain and fatigue makes life less enjoyable and quite often dentists and hygenists suffer from either one or both of these. However, both of these are easily preventable by using loupes and portable headlight systems! Back and neck pain in the dental field is often a result from poor posture, as many lean forward to see fine details or alleviate eye strain. This can be prevented by using dental loupes to see more clearly and work at a more ergonomically sound operating posture.

Ergonomics is all about achieving efficiency in your working environment. It involves your body’s biomechanical design, what equipment you choose and most importantly, your posture. Understanding and practicing good ergonomics and balanced posture is the key to preventing cumulative musculoskeletal problems and maintaining quality of life.

The prevalence of neck pain among dentists is around 70% and musculoskeletal disorder causes almost 30% of dentists to retire early. Magnification loupes that are set to your correct working length and head-mounted illumination profoundly influence good posture.

The aim of dental ergonomics is to optimize your work in two areas; firstly your clinical proficiency in access, visibility and control within the oral cavity; and secondly your physical and psychological comfort while you work. Poor ergonomics leads to fatigue, pain, stress and poorer quality of work. Good ergonomics has shown to increase circulation, energy and comfort. Good posture reduces muscular tension, pain and clinical errors. Ideal working posture

Balanced posture is symmetrical. Avoid deviating from the recommended balanced posture, for instance by leaning over to one side, lifting elbows or shoulders, or poor positioning of the patient in the chair. Good ergonomics also requires some body movement. Prolonged, static working stances can cause muscle ischemia and musculoskeletal problems. You should avoid positions and work practices that induce static isometric muscle contraction by moving around a little; take short breaks and do stretches between patients. Chairside stretching is an important strategy to use throughout the workday to prevent microtrauma and muscle imbalances. Other helpful ergonomic factors are a chair with arm supports, a titled seat base or a saddle-type chair.

Proper patient positioning is crucial, but only get the patient into position once you’ve settled into your ideal balanced posture. Pay attention to your own comfort and beware non-neutral postures such as flexing and twisting your torso. Leaning your head persistently to one side risks developing trigger points in the scalene muscles, which can refer pain to distant parts of the body. Poor lighting creates shadowing and can force clinicians to adopt contorted positions in order to see poorly lit areas of the working field. Positioning your illumination is therefore important for your vision and posture. While overhead chair lights are better than no illumination, light that parallels your line of sight eliminates shadowing and improves posture, i.e. a head or loupe-mounted LED light.

How LumaDent can help you

LumaDent loupes immediately set your correct working length and magnify what you’re looking at. The marked improvement in posture when wearing dental loupes is immediate.6 Dentists and hygienists under 40 years old can increase seeing fine detail in the operating field by bringing their head closer to the patient – this is disastrous for spine health. It’s common to see dental and hygiene students hunched over just a few inches from their patient’s face. Magnifying loupes remove the need to move in closer and bend the neck and back.

Most dentists and hygienists over 40 years old are affected by presbyopia. As the eyes age the lenses progressively become more crystalline, which decreases their ability to focus on close objects (accommodation). They can’t bring their head in closer to magnify an object. Magnifying loupes increase older practitioners’ visual acuity and solve the problem of limited close-focussing ability and the need to bend the neck and hunch the back.

With the back straight, the neck within acceptable flexion limits (<20º) and using magnification loupes, a dental LED light is also essential for ergonomics; it’s important to adequately illuminate the working field with shadowless light. A LumaDent headlight system further prevents back, neck and shoulder pain by eliminating the need to reach and adjust an overhead light.

Benefits of ergonomic posture

• Reduce strain on your eyes
• Improve the quality of care and diagnostics
• Improve your vision via greater magnification
• Reduce musculoskeletal problems
• Increased comfort
• Increased circulation
• Increased work satisfaction

The LumaDent team with Dr. Steven W. Smith, BDS(Otago) MDes(Massey) NDipGD(DUT)