Dentists need to stay healthy too!

Dentists need to stay healthy too!

According to many studies, in the 37.7% of the working time, dental practitioners are having stress injury on their musculoskeletal system. This occurs because their posture during the dental procedure is strained (while sitting or standing next to a patient who is in a lying or a sitting position). This condition induces the majority of the stress which affects the muscles. However, musculoskeletal complications in dental practitioners are noticed such as any healthcare expert and they are also well documented. Most of the dental practitioners indicate at least one sign or symptom of the musculoskeletal disorder. One study which was made in Greece, claims that 62% of the dental workers have at least one sign of musculoskeletal disease, 30% of them are having chronic complaints, and 16% of them are having sought medical health care.  The most common musculoskeletal complaint is the low back pain. Chronic pain in the back area is noticed in more than 25% of the dentists. It is well known that sitting position induce more pain on the back area than the alternating position which is between sitting and standing.

Another complaint among dental practitioners is the hand or wrist complaint. It is more common in dental hygienists. These complaints follow the low back pain and they result in a higher chronicity than the other complaints. The prevalence of carpal tunnel’s syndrome is low and it is around 5%. Most of the dental workers express some symptoms of this syndrome.

Complaints which are related to shoulder and neck are less noticed than the pain in the neck. It is very important to be mentioned that the age and gender are playing a significant role in the appearance of the neck pain. In order to reduce the pain risk, all dental workers have to visit some educational training. Those are very important risk factors for the appearance of shoulder pain. The neck and shoulder pain were related to the alone living. The increased age was a correspondent for all chronic complaints. Female individuals were related to chronic pain in the back and shoulder area. Those dental practitioners who work long period during the day, those with lower job control, and those with higher physical load, were associated with the appearance of comorbidities.  

The pain in muscles and skeleton may be caused by mechanical vibrations which are affecting the organism through out the upper limbs. This way, they can cause changes in the neural, osteoarticular and vascular systems. All these changes can cause a situation knows as vibration syndrome. According to the available literature, there are no important facts that indicate the correlation between the vibrations which are emitted by the dental instruments and the characterized symptoms of vibration syndrome. All musculoskeletal disorders and pain that affect dental practitioners have multifactorial causes.  It is very important to remember that there is a close relationship between the repeated unidirectional twisting of the trunk, biomechanics of seated postures during working period, working in one position for a long period of time, operator’s flexibility and the core strength, physiological damage and pain, and operators who know how to adjust their ergonomic equipment. Most studies and educational programs claim that dental workers can prevent these multifactorial problems with the usage of ergonomic gear in their dental offices.

Cumulative trauma disorders or (CTDS) are health disorders which are caused from repeated biomechanical stress to the wrist, elbows, hands, neck, shoulders. and back. The most common CTDS are low back pain and carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). CTS is cited as symptomatic compression of the median nerve within the carpal tunnel. That is the space between the transverse carpal ligament on the palmar side of the wrist and the carpal bones on the dorsal side of the wrist. This syndrome occurs when the median nerve that runs from the forearm into the hand, gets squeezed and pressed at the wrist. This nerve controls the palm sensations from the thumb and fingers (but not the little finger) and also the impulses to some small muscle in the hand that allows them to move.   

Working in physiologically improper body position for a long period of time

When performing a procedure in the oral cavity, dental workers should contort their bodies while utilizing various hand tools. They have to maintain these body conditions for a long period of time. These situations make a problem which causes static contractions and subsequently could develop muscle ischemia. Many studies have shown that the ischemia of the muscles is the main cause of myofascial trigger points. They can result in restriction of movement, pain or muscular atrophy. When postural muscles get weak because of the dental operator improper posture, he can feel pain. This can also affect the dental expert’s legs, shoulders, spines, flat foot, leg spine shoulder pain and varicosity.

How to alleviate the risk of having musculoskeletal discomfort?

  • Always maintaining an erect posture: A dental practitioner has to adjust his seating in order to minimize bending forward, preserving the normal curves in his spine as he seat to treat his patient.
  • Keep his body in a relaxed and natural position: A dental practitioner has to know that he can’t work with his arms if they are elevated and tensed. He has to try to bring his patient close to him so that his elbows and arms are close to his body. A dentist has to be ensured that his hands and wrists don’t remain contorted for a long period of time.
  • Change his posture many times as he can: A dentist has to perform frequent switching between sitting and standing. This helps in reducing the fatigue and also the risk of problems which are associated with static muscle ischemia.
  • Utilizing dental equipment and tools which are easy to hold: A dental practitioner can afford ergonomically designed dental gear and he can find it in every dental store.
  • Taking regular breaks during and between the dental procedures: These breaks would enable the dentist to do some stretching exercises. This will help in reducing the muscular tension and give a dentist time to recompose.

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